Excellencies, Distinguished delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is a great honour and privilege to assume the presidency of the UNICEF Executive Board in 2018. I thank you for the confidence placed in me, and I look forward to a strong and effective working relationship with you all throughout this year.
I congratulate the outgoing President, Ambassador Webson and the Bureau [Ambassador Al-Mouallimi (Saudi Arabia); Ambassador Tiare (Burkina Faso); Ambassador Stener (Norway); and Ms. Velichko (Belarus)] on their achievements and assure the members that we will build on the impressive results of 2017.
I would also like to congratulate the newly appointed Executive Director of UNICEF, Ms. Henrietta Fore. You come/Ms. Fore come(s) to us with a long and impressive experience, to mention just a few, as Administrator of USAID, as Director and Deputy Secretary of State of U.S. Foreign Assistance (being the first woman to ever serve in these roles) and various other capacities, both as board member and CEO of various well known institutions and companies.
You also have a heartfelt commitment to children, and we are fortunate to have you as new Executive Director. On behalf of the Board and the Bureau, our warmest welcome to you. We look forward to working closely together.
I plan to continue the leadership of the Board in the spirit of unity and collaboration for children that has long characterized this body. As you may know, Norway has been a member of UNICEF since the organization’s founding in 1946, and has been represented on the Board during almost every decade since that time. As such, we hope to make use of our reservoir of experience and knowledge of the governance of this organization.
Undoubtedly, UNICEF has changed a lot through the years, and, together with the broader international community, it has adapted to reflect the global context and it has had to innovate and change how we respond to the ever-evolving situation of children.
Together, we as Executive Board members will provide strategic guidance to make sure UNICEF continues to respond effectively to the challenges of our time, leveraging our experience and expertise to bring heightened attention to the situation of children – particularly those who are most disadvantaged.
Speaking on behalf of the entire Board, I would also say that we look forward to engaging with Executive Director Fore’s closest colleagues: Deputy Executive Directors: Ms. Fatoumata Ndiaye, Mr. Omar Abdi, Mr. Justin Forsyth and Ms. Shanelle Hall; and the Secretary of the Executive Board, Mr. Nicolas Pron, and his team, as well as the other members of the UNICEF secretariat whose efforts help to ensure that the Board sessions are successful.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Despite enormous global progress for children over the last few decades, the lives and futures of children in every society continued to be marked by discrimination and inequity. And humanitarian emergencies, extreme poverty and climate change are propelling the greatest displacement of children since World War II, worsening their situation and exposing them to new risks.
In responding to the immense challenges children are facing today, our work will be guided by the new Strategic Plan for 2018–2021, underpinned by the principles of leaving no one behind and reaching the furthest behind first. The Strategic Plan aims to further position UNICEF not only for the next four years but also to place it squarely on the path towards achievement of the ambitious goals set out in the 2030 Agenda.
I welcome the common chapter in the strategic plans of UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA and UN-Women, which has set the tone for more collaborative approaches that hopefully will result in greater coherence, efficiency and effectiveness in the work of the agencies.
But such achievements can only come about if we heed the call of member states in the QCPR -[quadrennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system] to reposition the UN development system and to ensure that the requisite reforms are carried through.
I appreciate the non-paper initiative led by the outgoing Presidents of all the boards in December 2017, and look forward to following up this important work. Together with the Vice-Presidents and members of the Board, we will continue to guide the joint efforts of UNICEF, together with its sister agencies, as it lends its support to the Secretary-General’s reform agenda, and encourage timely discussions on the important matter of reform.
Let us not forget that UN member states have given the Bureaux the task of reviewing the functions of the Board. In line with expectations spelled out in the QCPR, the boards must be made more effective, open and transparent. Increased member state interaction with the organization is an important part of that process, relevant board decisions on major issues is another.
If there is room for improvement and updates that could benefit from our review, we should use the opportunity, keeping in mind the goal of increasing efficiency.
Colleagues, we have a busy and challenging year ahead of us. As we proceed on this collective journey, let us pool our insights and influence to help UNICEF continue its work to save children’s lives, advocate for their rights and promote their well-being.
I thank you.