January 21, 2004
Volume 8, Number 5
US Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman was appointed as the new Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Veneman begins her 5-year term on May 1. Pro-life groups are hoping that Veneman will carrying through badly needed reforms in the organization that she inherits, steering UNICEF away from a radical feminist agenda and returning it to a focus on child survival.
Veneman replaces Carol Bellamy, who was first nominated by President Clinton in 1995. Under Bellamy, UNICEF became involved in controversial programs, including sexual education for children that encourage sexual promiscuity, promote the rights of women and girls from a feminist perspective, and even support abortion. UNICEF has also been increasing its collaboration with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the world's leading public sector provider of contraceptives and abortifacients, and a provider of material support for forced abortions in China.
A leading British medical journal, The Lancet, recently reported that "UNICEF has lost its way during Carol Bellamy's long term of office" because she "has failed to address the essential health needs of children" due to her "preoccupation with [women's and children's] rights." The Lancet reported "shocking" statistics showing that 6 million children continue to die each year of preventable causes, mostly of malnutrition, even as "cost-effective interventions are available for all major causes of child mortality." The Lancet stated that "coverage levels for these interventions are appallingly low in the 42 countries that account for 90% of child deaths," and blamed "Bellamy's unwillingness to engage with child survival."
When Veneman was asked on Tuesday about her position regarding UNICEF's current policies on "reproductive health and education for girls," she replied that: "I don't...believe that these issues are relevant to the missions of UNICEF" and "I don't come with any agenda with regard to those or any other social issues." Instead, she stated, "I come with an agenda of helping children, particularly in areas of education and health and to address issues of hunger and malnutrition."
Many hope that Veneman will return UNICEF to the priorities of Jim Grant, Bellamy's predecessor who transformed UNICEF into the most respected UN agency by focusing on four simple interventions: "growth monitoring, oral rehydration therapy, breastfeeding, and immunization."
Veneman is the fifth American to be the head of UNICEF. She was nominated for the post by President Bush. As UNICEF's largest donor, the US makes the nomination for the spot.
Copyright 2004 - C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute).
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