Statement by H.E. Rabab Fatima at the General debate of theorganization of work for the 2021 first regular session of the UNICEF Executive Board on 9 February 2021

Madam President – I am delighted to see you in the Chair. Congratulations to you and all members of the bureau.

It’s good to be back in UNICEF among friends and so many familiar faces.

I commend Executive Director Fore, for her outstanding leadership during this extraordinary year, and her dedicated team of UNICEF staff globally who worked tirelessly protecting and serving children during this period.  Her statement is a testament to UNICEF’s exceptional ability to deliver its mandate in difficult situations. Thank you UNICEF.

Allow me to touch upon a couple of issues from the ED’s statement.

First, I fully share Ms. Fore’s sentiment on the issue of ‘vaccine nationalism’. UNICEF’s leadership to roll out COVAX facility is a welcome development against this trend. We need more such initiatives to bridge the growing “vaccine divides” between the rich and the poor. We feel that transferring technology and flexibility under IPR to the developing countries could be a cost and time effective way to ensure the vaccines for the most vulnerable people; and we encourage UNICEF to support this cause.

Second, we are happy to see that UNICEF has partnered with some member states to develop technical guidance on safe reopening of schools. We wish to know about UNICEF’s plans to expand this work further, especially in the developing countries.

Thirdly, we support UNICEF’s efforts to scale up new technologies and innovations to expand distance learning for every child, everywhere, including through its GIGA initiative. At the same time be mindful about the rise of cyber-crimes against children. We encourage UNICEF to invest more to create a safe and secured digital environment for the children.

Fourth, the pandemic has made children more vulnerable to crimes and exploitations, such as domestic violence, trafficking, etc.   Girls are particularly vulnerable, as are children living in poverty and difficult situations, and those who are differently challenged. We hope that UNICEF will have enhanced focus on these issues in its new strategic plan.

Finally, we support the ED’s call for enhanced core and flexible funding, especially now to respond to the urgent and ongoing needs in the context of the pandemic recovery. On that note, it is imperative that flagship UNICEF programs, such as immunizations do not get off-track in the midst of the pandemic crisis.  They must continue.

I thank you all.