Friday, June 11, 2010

UNICEF Executive Director Brings the Focus to the Most Vulnerable

In his first address to the UNICEF Executive Board, UNICEF's new Executive Director, Mr. Anthony Lake, emphasized the importance of bridging extremes of wealth and poverty both between and within nations. Mr. Lake asserted the need for continued efforts by UNICEF in the most impoverished and remote corners of the globe, in order to ensure that the most vulnerable - the "forgotten children" - are not further neglected.

He reminded us that we are engaged in the greatest push to reduce global poverty the world has ever seen, and that the bottom quintile must become the world’s top priority. For Mr. Lake an increased focus on bottom quintile is the best way to honor our commitment to the rights of the world’s most vulnerable children. “This commitment is who we are and what we do.”

If we focus our efforts on the “easy wins” now--those children who are the easiest to reach--the forgotten children will not magically disappear, he argued; instead we will arrive at 2015 still facing the toughest challenge of reaching these children, but with “fewer resources, political exhaustion and a public that has moved on.”

Mr. Lake reminded us that 50 to 70 percent of children who are out of school are from indigenous and ethnic minority groups, with the majority being girls, possibly the most forgotten of all children. There is great enthusiasm for this new focus among government officials, national committees, and civil society, and they are looking for UNICEF and sister agencies to lead this effort.

He provided a brief outline of some of the things UNICEF will be working on with its regional and country offices as we think though this new focus, including:
- Making better use of the high quality data UNICEF generates, disaggregating it to better identify disparities and better target our efforts to address them;
- Doing more to assist governments in building their own capacities to overcome systemic deficiencies and to address the underlying causes of these inequities and;
- Investing further effort in our own organization by making UNICEF even more results focused and improving our country programs’ ability to develop cross-sectoral community interventions.

We cannot afford to fail, he concludes; “By working together, we will succeed.”

Watch the videos of his speech at the opening of the 2010 Annual Executive Board Meeting: