Remarks at the Annual Meeting of the UNICEF Executive Board

James Morris
U.S. Representative on the Executive Board of the UN Children’s Fund
New York City, NY
February 11, 2020


Thank you, Madam President

The United States, too, would like to congratulate you and assure you of our strong support.  May I add that I have been very inspired and encouraged by each of the statements of my predecessors this morning.  Taken as a whole, they offer great encouragement for the children of the world, just where our focus ought to be.

I also thank our executive director, Henrietta Fore.  We miss her but we thank her for her leadership and her special focus on the empowerment of girls, her partnership mentality, and especially the work together with the World Food Program to address the terrible issues of stunting and wasting and food insecurity for kids around the world.  At the end of the day, the hungry child has no chance, and addressing these issues is at the base of making progress on all of the sustainable development goals.

We are encouraged by the previous decade’s accomplishments.  As we look towards the next decade, I would like to take this opportunity to share U.S. views on key items to be discussed at this Executive Board session.

The United States remains—proudly so—the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance globally and the top humanitarian donor to UNICEF.  This longstanding commitment signals our belief in the importance—the critical importance—of UNICEF’s work.  The U.S. Government recognizes the Executive Board as a critical forum for oversight, and believes limiting the number of Board sessions would weaken this oversight and would be a mistake.  Further, noting the size and scope of UNICEF’s humanitarian action, we request that UNICEF reinstate the Oral Update on Humanitarian Action to the agenda for the second session meeting in September 2020.

The U.S. Government recognizes and commends UNICEF’s private-sector engagement and urges the continuation of this work by collaboration and working closely with other UN agencies that are working to diversify their donor bases and funding.   The U.S. Government looks forward to receiving an update at this session, including specific examples on how UNICEF’s internal operations, supply-chain, and results have improved as a result of working with businesses. And we applaud the comments from the gentleman from [Republic of] Korea about the importance of doing the best possible job to tell the UNICEF story to people who would help us and benefit from helping us.

The United States is deeply concerned about increasing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles.  The extension of the Vaccine Independence Initiative provides an important opportunity to discuss UNICEF’s work to help ensure all children have access to life-saving vaccines.  And the numbers of children that have been served is incredible.  We urge UNICEF and all Member States to give the highest priority to strengthening national routine immunization systems, and to better engage parents, health providers, and community organizations, including faith-based leadership and organizations, as well as the media in order to combat misleading anti-vaccine information.

The United States appreciates ED [Executive Director] Fore’s strong leadership on the urgent need to prevent sexual exploitation, abuse (SEA), and harassment within UNICEF and beyond.  SEA undermines the credibility and effectiveness of the development and humanitarian aid success, as it is already at odds with our collective goal of saving lives and promoting human dignity for those we serve and employ. We must live our values.  We take all allegations of sexual harassment and sexual abuse seriously.

I would like to conclude by offering a strong word of gratitude to the remarkable people that serve UNICEF on a full-time basis.  They are extraordinary.  Last year I visited the UNICEF work in Mumbai, in India and to see the work and the passion and the dedication and the brilliance of these folks that touch the lives of tens of thousands of children, every day, all over the world, millions in fact, is extraordinary. They have our great admiration and we’re so grateful for them.

Thank you.