At the outset I want to thank our new Executive Director for his statement and for setting out such clear priorities for UNICEF. We will do our utmost to provide all the support you and your staff need to address the situation for children and youth every day all over the world.
Let me also take this opportunity to welcome you to Oslo in two weeks time.
I would also like to thank UNICEF staff here at Headquarters and in the field for their continued tireless efforts.
Achieving the Millennium Development Goals has been a top priority for UNICEF and we are pleased to note that the new Executive Director is also fully committed. With five years left to 2015, firm leadership is vital to push for the necessary engagement by all stakeholders.
Norway has taken a special responsibility in relation to MDGs 4 and 5. There is a close relationship between child and maternal health and the status of women and children. There is also a close relationship between the status of women and children and the economic performance of states.
This year the health of women and children is at the top of the agenda of the G8/G20, the African Union and the UN with the MDG Summit in September. This year is our opportunity to raise the level of support for women and children.
In this regard, Norway actively supports the Secretary-General’s important initiative to develop a Joint Action Plan to Improve the Health of Women and Children. The Action Plan was presented as a draft at the World Health Assembly in Geneva recently and a new printed version is expected to be available this week.
We encourage UNICEF, in collaboration with other stakeholders, to fully support this initiative, and contribute to making the MDG Summit in September a success.
The importance of empowering women and children is also the reason why Norway has chosen to channel a substantial amount to UNICEF’s work on education and gender equality. It is evident that progress with regard to one of the MDGs also increases our rate of achievement with respect to the other MDGs. For example, a child born to a literate mother will have a 50% greater chance of survival to age 5 than a child born to an illiterate mother. We all have to keep this in mind when revitalising strategies and plans five years from the MDG deadline.
As reaffirmed today by the Executive Director, UNICEF is actively engaged in efforts of UN coherence, both at headquarters and in the field. This is reflected not only in UNICEF policy, but more importantly in its operational activities. We commend these efforts which are vital if the UN is to adapt to the new needs of the 21st century. UNICEF as a large and well-functioning UN organisation has an obligation to push the reform agenda within the UN family.
In the spirit of improving UN coherence, we are encouraged by the request of Tanzania to present a Common Country Programme Document at this Board Session.
We would like to take this opportunity to make a few comments to this year’s report:
The Annual report for 2009 is good and presents useful information on recent developments, UNICEF achievements and results. We find it particularly valuable that UNICEF has included a chapter on “Lessons learned and future directions” under each focus area. The improved results reporting corresponds to the finding in the recent assessment conducted by the Multilateral Organisation Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN), to which Norway is a part. We are happy to learn that UNICEF has confirmed that they will follow up on the findings of the survey and also work closely with MOPAN to ensure that the survey further improves and becomes a more effective assessment and learning tool for UNICEF.
Despite clear improvements, the report still has some weaknesses. It generally lacks commentaries on whether the results achieved are according to the planned results. In other words, is progress made as planned? There is also a need to better identify UNICEF’s relative share of progress. How UNICEF works with partners in the field should also be reflected more clearly. We need to see and understand the value added by UNICEF also regarding results that are hard to measure.
Despite headway in providing basic education, many children still do not have access to this fundamental right. This is particularly the case in conflict and crisis situations. Recent statistics show that out of the 72 million children out of school, 39 million are found in conflict and crisis areas. We are pleased to learn that 5,4 million children in 41 countries were reached through various UNICEF interventions of assistance in emergency situations. However, more could be done to communicate these achievements as contributions to the MDGs.
Speaking of communications, UNICEF, with its double-hatted role as both a humanitarian and development actor, is uniquely placed to provide guidance on how to fill the gap that so often occurs after humanitarian crisis or armed conflict. We encourage UNICEF to better promote its comparative advantage within the UN family.
The last time we were all gathered here in this room, the earthquake hit Haiti and before we had concluded our meeting, UNICEF was already providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Haiti and coordinating the international community’s efforts within many important sectors. I would like to take this opportunity to praise UNICEF’s humanitarian efforts. As donors and member states we all have to do our utmost to ensure that UNICEF is provided with all the necessary financial and human resources it needs.
In addition, all states are obliged to ensure that humanitarian aid is delivered and that access is secured for the many civilians stuck in the turmoil of either natural disasters or man-made disasters of war and conflict. The last days events in international waters north of Gaza are a tragic reminder of the importance of ensuring access to civilians in need. Denying children humanitarian assistance is in violation of international law.
UNICEF is an important implementing partner for Norway’s political engagement in combating sexual violence in armed conflict. We are very pleased that we now have an SRSG on Women, peace and security. SRSG Wallström has our full support and UNICEF is already a vital partner in fulfilling her mandate. UNICEF’s role in combating sexual violence in armed conflict is invaluable on many levels. Its role in implementing Security Council resolution 1882 is a case in point. Progress within resolution 1882 will clearly help achieving the purposes of other Security Council resolutions.
Norway will provide UNICEF with both political and financial backing in this regard. We look forward to increasing our strategic collaboration with UNICEF with a view to enhancing an integrated approach.
We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with UNICEF and to work together to create a world fit for children.
Thank you for your attention