Issue 120 - January 6 - UNICEF Head Will Not Seek Second Term

New York, January 6, 2010 - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on December 29 that the Executive Director of the United Nations Children Fund's (UNICEF), Ann M. Veneman of the United States, will not seek a second term. Her five-year tenure will conclude at the end of April 2010. She had taken up the post in May 2005.   

In a letter to colleagues on December 23, Veneman wrote that it was "with a heavy heart" that she made the decision to leave her position. She gave no explanation for her decision. Veneman committed to working to "ensure a smooth, productive transition" for her successor.

Some have suggested that Veneman's decision may have been influenced by "repeated clashes with her staff on a variety of issues." In November 2009, Inner City Press also reported rumors of conflicts between Veneman and her staff, as well as internal critiques of her leadership style and competence.

Ban expressed "great regret" at Veneman's decision to leave the organization, describing her as a strong leader whose legacy will be an organization "well-equipped to meet the challenges children face in the twenty-first century."

Role of Executive Director

The Executive Director of UNICEF "works ... to help children around the world survive and thrive by advocating for and protecting their rights." To this end, she oversees the annual resources of UNICEF and the implementation of its programs, which are staffed by over 10,000 workers in more than 150 countries. 

The head of UNICEF also serves on the Secretary-General's Senior Management Group, a body established in 1997 to ensure strategic coherence and direction in the work of the Organization. It serves as the central policy planning body of the UN, under the chair-ship of the Secretary-General.

The level of UNICEF's Executive Director is equivalent to an Under-Secretary-General, but the post does not use that title.

Appointment Process

Most USG-level positions are appointed by the UN General Assembly "on the recommendation of the Secretary-General."

The UNICEF Executive Director, however, is appointed directly by the UN Secretary-General, "in consultation with the Executive Board" of UNICEF (Founding Resolution, 57 (1) of December 1946).

The office has been held by a U.S. citizen since UNICEF's creation. Its four previous Executive Directors, who all served for ten years or more, were: Maurice Pate (1947-1965), Henry R. Labouisse (1965-1979), James P. Grant (1980-1995), and Carol Bellamy (1995-2005).

Former U.S. President George Bush had recommended Veneman for the post, and according to the Associated Press, U.S. President Barack Obama "is expected to recommend a replacement for Veneman." The U.S.' influence in the office is due largely to the country's leading financial contributions to UNICEF, reports the AP.


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