UNICEF under New Leadership

The organization’s plan to leave no one behind and reach the furthest behind first includes enhancing partnership and increasing focus on adolescents

UNICEF Back to School programm in Congo

UNICEF ‘Back to School’ programme in Congo – Julien Harneis via Flickr – CC

By Kaitlin DrapeUNICEF held its first Regular Session of the Executive Board of UNICEF for 2018 with its new Executive Director and President on Tuesday, February 6, 2018.  The new President is H.E. Mr. Tore Hattram, Permanent Representative of Norway, and the new Executive Director is Ms. Henrietta Fore, who replaces Anthony Lake, who held the position since 2010.

H.E. Mr. Hattram commented that because of discrimination, inequities, lack of access to basic services and climate change, today we see the “greatest displacement of children since World War II.”  UNICEF’s strategic plan has as its basis to “leave no one behind and reach the furthest behind first.”

Ms. Fore, who was most recently CEO of Holman International, a manufacturing and investment firm, has also held numerous US government positions, including Undersecretary of State for Management, the Chief Operating Officer for the Department of State.  She opened the meeting with her own statement and recounted her recent visit to South Sudan where she was able to survey the devastating conditions which have been especially difficult for children, many of whom are separated from their families, with 2.4 million children fleeing their home, more than 250,000 severely malnourished. Many of these children have also recruited into fighting.

Much success has been achieved by UNICEF, she commented, “the best, most consequential organization in the world.”  Last year UNICEF vaccinated 1.8 million children against measles and treated more than 180,000 children against severe acute malnutrition.  It aided 300,000 children to find and access education.  But the future challenges are great.

The new Strategic Plan calls for “clear, flexible guidance for our country offices” and programs that encourage collaboration among agencies while avoiding duplication.  She emphasized increasing “developmental impact” through collective action through partnerships with entities within the UN and among governments, non-profit organizations, and business.

She believes that going forward will require collaborations among UN agencies, non- governmental organizations, foundations, as well as enhanced cooperation with private sector business, a group which has always been an able partner with UNICEF.  The goal of the Strategic Plan is to establish 30 new integrated partnerships with private businesses. She will seek new ways which business can contribute “accelerators” through technologies needed to meet UNICEF goals. From toilets and water delivery to vaccinations, and the use of new technologies like drones, the private sector can be an important partner in bringing these solutions to those in need.

She also emphasized that UNICEF’s efforts must also focus on “the second decade” of a child’s life, the adolescent years.  Today, there is the largest cohort of young people in history – 1.2 billion. More than 100 million young people cannot read, and 56% of primary students do not have minimum proficiency.   Only one in 10 young people have secondary skills.  The goal of this Strategic Plan is to have every young person be in school, in training, or employed by 2030 using many different partners including governments, global and local businesses, NGOs and other UN agencies.

In her written statement, she concludes that, “As we did during the child-survival revolution of the 1990s, we can — together — achieve more impact and more results by identifying and applying accelerators like knowledge, data, digital solutions and innovations. This is a calling of our time today. Governments, civil society and UNICEF staff members in the field are telling us that a generation is at stake.”