Presentation by the President of the Executive Board of UNICEF, H.E. Mr. Sven Jürgenson, Permanent Representative of Estonia to the UN on Report of the field visit to Argentina by the Bureau of UNICEF Executive Board in April 2016, 15 June 2016
UNICEF Executive Board´s Annual session
Statement of the President of the Executive Board
H.E. Mr. Sven Jürgenson
Permanent Representative of Estonia to the United Nations
15 June 2016
Presentation of the Report of the field visit to Argentina by members of the Bureau of the UNICEF Executive Board, 11 to 15 April 2016
Distinguished Delegates, I’m pleased to present to you the report of the field visit to Argentina by members of the Bureau of the UNICEF Executive Board that took place from 11 to 15 April 2016.
The following members of the Executive Board participated in the visit:
H.E. Mr. Ibrahim O. A. Dabbashi, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Libya;
H.E. Mr. Walton Alfonso Webson, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Antigua and Barbuda;
H.E. Mr. Durga Prasad Bhattarai, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Nepal;
H.E. Mr. Hiroshi Minami, Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Japan;
And myself, Mr. Sven Jürgenson, Permanent Representative of Estonia to the United Nations;
We were accompanied by Mr. Nicolas Pron, Secretary of the UNICEF Executive Board.
The delegation expresses its gratitude to the Government of Argentina for providing an opportunity for a frank and substantive dialogue between the UNICEF Executive Board Bureau and senior government officials. We would also like to thank Ms. Florence Bauer, Representative of UNICEF in Argentina and the whole UNICEF team in Argentina for the carefully prepared and well-organized visit. The Bureau was particularly impressed by the commitment and dedication of Argentinian officials at every level and by that of the UNICEF staff in Buenos Aires.
The purpose of this visit was to develop a greater understanding of the situation in Argentina and to make recommendations for the future. More specifically, the visit aimed to demonstrate concrete examples of UNICEF cooperation with the Government and with other partners, including the United Nations country team (UNCT). The visit provided an excellent opportunity for the members of the Bureau to better understand the issues and challenges facing children and women in Argentina.
The programme of the visit consisted of two main components:
(a) Meetings in Buenos Aires with the UNICEF country office, senior-level government counterparts, members of the UNCT and key donors.
(b) A field trip to the Province of Salta, where the Bureau visited UNICEF projects in Paraje La Bomba. The delegation met with local government representatives, civil society organizations, users of health facilities, health workers, teachers, school administrators, and students, members of community groups, religious leaders and UNICEF staff.
The World Bank classifies Argentina as a high-income country with the potential, due to high inflation, to slip back into middle-income status. Therefore, the visit to Argentina was especially timely, given the decision by the Executive Board in February 2015 to invite UNICEF to work with relevant high-income countries to prepare CPDs for the Board’s consideration, as well as the subsequent decision by the Executive Board last February to approve Argentina’s new CPD.
Let me give you a breakdown of some of the key issues facing children and women in Argentina and UNICEF´s role in Argentina
Argentina is a federal country that has achieved considerable progress in the fulfilment of children’s rights. However, there are still strong disparities and equity gaps, in particular between the north and the south of the country. Social investment has been a priority for the Government, but there are still several remaining challenges.
The UNICEF´s country programme is consistent with the UNICEF strategic plan for 2014-2017. It is structured in five components including: Social inclusion and child rights monitoring, inclusive and quality education, protection and justice for children and adolescents, child and adolescent health and well-being, and social and resource mobilization. The office and its allies work to further these goals both on the upstream level by encouraging legal reform, policies and budgets, and on the downstream level indirectly on the ground.
Several major health issues affecting Argentina’s most vulnerable were made apparent during our visit. There are clear problems with obesity among children and adolescents. UNICEF Argentina is currently engaging in dialogue with the food and beverage industries to combat obesity.
We were also made aware that the rates of suicide and violence among Argentina’s adolescent population are increasing. These issues point to wider and more complex problems requiring an inter-sectoral perspective.
An increasing rate of early pregnancy presents another major health concern for the youth of Argentina. This issue has been linked to sexual abuse, gender and equity gaps, lack of necessary health services and lack of inter-sectoral approaches to adolescent health and well-being.
High rates of Infant and maternal mortality in Argentina pose additional concerns. However, with UNICEF support, significant progress has been made in this area. Infant mortality has substantially decreased over the past two decades. Likewise, the maternal mortality rate has decreased, but to a lesser extent. Progress in both of these indicators has been significant but uneven. Certain provinces still retain rates of infant and maternal mortality well-above the national average.
The right to education is guaranteed by laws that establish 14 years of compulsory education. Preschool education has gained momentum with a 2014 law, supported by UNICEF, which establishes compulsory education starting at age 4 and universal access to preschool for three-year-olds. The challenge is to reduce geographic differences in access to education and to enhance quality. Over the past decade, access to secondary education has increased but many children are still out of school, overaged and at risk of dropping out. Barriers to accessing secondary education are linked to socioeconomic and urban-rural disparities (attendance is 79 per cent in rural areas compared to 90.2 per cent in urban areas).
Our delegation saw some excellent examples of UNICEF´s work in the field of education:
· In the village of La Bomba, we were able to visit and ICT based secondary school, which has given those children living in that remote area, which has a limited number of teachers, an opportunity to receive a secondary education for the first time.
· The Bureau also visited a secondary school in the City of Moreno with day-care facilities for adolescent mothers, fathers or siblings. This was a successful project that allows adolescents who would otherwise drop out of school to continue their education. However, the need for the project is a reminder of the widespread problem of early pregnancy.
Although Argentina has adapted its legislation to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and in most provinces has enforced laws for comprehensive protection of children, implementation remains uneven. The social norms remain a barrier to end violence against children. Child poverty is also a concern.
In Salta, the Bureau learned with satisfaction that the provincial government has appointed a Minister of Early Childhood who´s office has started an extensive monitoring programme, mainly carried out by volunteers, to map the conditions and specific problems of families in need. The experiences and lessons learned from the programme should be shared with other provinces and other countries.
Let me now come to some of the observations that the Bureau made.
· Our delegation was impressed by the importance and relevance of UNICEF’s work on children’s rights in Argentina. We all agreed that the UNICEF programmes in Argentina have been very effective and have had a meaningful impact on the well-being of children in the country.
· The cooperation between UNICEF and government institutions was excellent.
· Our delegation appreciated the clear focus of UNICEF on the most vulnerable population groups and the most disadvantaged, vulnerable and remote geographical areas.
· Argentina is a good example that through innovative country programmes in sophisticated upper-middle-income and high-income countries (UMICs/HICs), UNICEF can play a strategic role in building innovative approaches, models, partnerships and alliances with government partners as well as with a variety of other actors (the private sector, think tanks, universities, civil society organizations etc.) that contribute to tackling emerging issues. The solutions being developed in Argentina can be useful for other countries with a similar economic profile. UNICEF´s work in Argentina can be a good example to keep in mind when the Executive Board session in September will revisit these issues.
· We found UNICEF fundraising mechanisms and results in Argentina impressive. UNICEF Argentina has developed an effective and efficient fundraising operation, which has resulted in the office doubling its income (in local currency) every two years. For example, in 2015, UNICEF Argentina raised more than $28 million. We noted the synergy between UNICEF’s programme work in Argentina and its very successful fundraising. Without its engagement in Argentina through its country programme, the country office would not be able to raise this level of funding.
· We would encourage UNICEF Country Offices in other UMICs and HICs to develop or strengthen fundraising operations. However, it is crucial to maintain minimum envelope of regular resources.
· In countries like Argentina, UNICEF can play a strategic role in facilitating South-South and triangular cooperation, in particular on emerging issues.
· Even in UMICs/HICs, UNICEF should complement upstream system-level work by supporting Governments to translate their vision into quality inclusive services for children on the ground.
Once again, I would like to thank the UNICEF team in Argentina for their enthusiasm and great work.
I encourage Member States to review the field visit report.