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At UNICEF, Embattled Veneman Won't Run for Second Term, Here's Why

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, December 23 -- Past five p.m. on the day before Christmas Eve, the UN released a comment on UNICEF chief Ann Veneman not seeking a second term. The news was hardly shocking. As Inner City Press analyzed less than a month ago, many child advocates did not favor her remaining in the post. But one wondered if the UN Secretary General jumped the gun with his press release. There was still no public news of Ms. Veneman's decision. For now we offer last month's analysis to explain today's development

In UNICEF, Critique of Veneman Is Only Half Answered, Second Term Questioned

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 27 -- As Ann Veneman's term as UNICEF Executive Director comes to a close, whether she should get a second term is a rising topic of discussion, particularly within the agency.

   The publication The Lancet, acknowledging that it "has good reason to thank Ann Veneman," nevertheless recommended that "UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should announce that the next Executive Director of UNICEF will be selected through a transparent, merit-based appointment process. Candidates... should have to declare themselves, publish manifestos, and be available for public scrutiny and questioning."

  Since the UN increasing refuses to name short lists for its top posts, or as in the case of the contested Associate Administrator position at the UN Development Program, even who makes the decision, Inner City Press has decided to do what it can in terms of making these processes transparent to the public.

 Whistleblowers inside UNICEF forwarded Inner City Press a detailed critique of Veneman's tenure. In fairness, Inner City Press asked, with partial success, UNICEF's chief of media for the Executive

"Director's responses to each of the following critiques from long time UNICEF staff / whistleblowers, so that the responses can be included in the article along with the critiques. Please provide Ms. Veneman's responses asap the statements by UNICEF staff that 'more serious charges can be leveled against Ms. Veneman on:

- her continuing to use Bush administration "Secretary of Agriculture" stationery even after becoming head of UNICEF;

- but her total failure to do any effective policy-based lobbying or even fund-raising with the U.S. Congess and U.S. administration;

- her frequent, unannounced, mysterious trips to Washington, DC and failure and unwillingness to visit even nearby Canada, a major donor;

- her reluctance to cultivate other key donors, e.g. Japan;

- but her strange willingness to go out of her way to cultivate San Marino and Gucci

- her failure to turn up and provide leadership during major humanitarian emergencies - e.g. in Lebanon during the huge Israeli attack and massive damage and destruction, in Myanmar / Burma during Cyclone Nargis, in China during the massive earthquake, etc.

- her early reluctance to travel to " hot and humid countries";

- the totally useless, unnecessary, expensive and counter-productive organizational review and attempt to reorganize UNICEF that had to be largely abandoned later;

- her lack of humility, and pretense of seemingly knowing many things, dismissing the views of many truly knowledgeable and competent staff;

- her lack of engagement and leadership with UNICEF national committees in industrialized countries who are among UNICEF's greatest assets;

- her neglect of major developing and emerging economy countries like the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China);

- her total lack of engagement and imagination in dealing effectively with middle income countries, e.g. in cee/cis

- her glaring lack of support for the convention on the rights of the child or for rights-based approach to development as such in the early years of her tenure;

- her opportunistic jumping into certain aspects of u.n. "reform" agenda completely ignoring the considered views and advice of most of her seasoned senior staff;

- her failure to connect with field offices and staff to the point that even after 4 years, many UNICEF staff in the field do not feel they know who their leader is and what she really wants or stands for.

   UNICEF's chief of media Chris de Bono answered some but not all of the questions. We have decided to run his response in full, as well as the initial questions, to highlight which questions were ignored.

UN's Ban and Ann Veneman, second term not shown

  UNICEF's de Bono wrote:

Subj: Response
From: [Chris de Bono at]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 11/24/2009 6:27:30 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

Matthew, The statements are unsourced opinion and contain a number of factual errors. Here is my response:

On leadership in humanitarian crisis and travel to difficult regions:

UNICEF stands by its excellent record of providing leadership during humanitarian crises, including through visits by members of the senior management team. The Executive Director herself travelled to Sri Lanka almost soon after taking up her position to see first-hand the Tsunami humanitarian relief operation. She was the first UN agency head into the Philippines after the recent floods. In October 2005, she went to Pakistan soon after the earthquake. Earlier this year, she was in Gaza and in Zimbabwe following the cholera outbreak. She has also travelled to the DRC twice, Darfur and Northern Uganda.

Convention on the Rights of the Child: The Executive Director regularly speaks out on violations of children’s rights. The work of UNICEF is anchored in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As you know, last week, UNICEF convened a major commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the CRC with partner NGOs ( UNICEF produced a special edition of its flagship State of the World’s Children report focused on the CRC – looking at achievements and challenges of the child-rights agenda (

On staff relations: Staff meetings and teleconferences with senior staff in the field are held on a weekly basis. Staff surveys conducted in 2008 and 2009 revealed that 93% say they are proud to work for UNICEF. Eighty-four per cent said they are clear about the goals that UNICEF is seeking to achieve. The Executive Director always meets with UNICEF staff when she travels to programme countries, and wherever possible also meets with the UN Country team.

On the organizational review: It is the responsibility of every organization to regularly reexamine its activities and to seek continuous improvement. UNICEF’s organizational review was initiated after meetings of senior management concluded that such a process would help UNICEF adapt to the changing world in which it operates. As a result, management changes are being implemented to more efficiently deliver on our mission and mandate.

On UN coherence: UNICEF has a longstanding commitment to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the UN system, as it is critical to enhancing results for the most vulnerable.

On visits to donor countries: Meetings with donors are a constant part of the activities of the UNICEF Executive Director and senior management. She recently returned from her fourth trip to Japan, during which she was the first UN head of agency to meet with the incoming Japanese government. She regularly meets with donor governments in capitals, at UN headquarters and at conferences. This includes Washington where the Executive Director meets with Government officials, the World Bank and other key partners.

Relations with National Committees: The Executive Director attends the global meeting of annual National Committees every year. She has also personally visited National Committees in 18 countries. National Committees are very important to UNICEF and their chiefs play a key role in UNICEF’s global leadership team meetings.

Emerging economies and Middle Income Countries: Strengthening engagement with middle income countries is an ongoing focus at all levels of the organization and with UNICEF’s Executive Board. The Executive Director has been to all the BRIC countries; Brazil, Russia, India and China, as well as a number of other middle income countries.

   While we have run the response in full, several of the questions remain unanswered. Ms. Veneman, after months without appearing in UN briefing room 226 to take questions, is scheduled to appear on November 30. At press time, UN Secretariat sources say she will not appear, since Eric Goosby, US Global AIDS Coordinator, is no longer coming, they say. Watch this site.

* * *

UNICEF Has "No Position" on China's One Child Policy, Lucy Liu Calls It Tradition, of Stealth MOUs and Re-election Worries

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 19 -- What is UNICEF's position on China's One Child Policy? It doesn't have one.

  In the run up to a UN children's agency event featuring Lucy Liu commemorating the Convention on the Rights of the Child's twentieth anniversary, Inner City Press asked UNICEF to "please state UNICEF's / Ms. Veneman's position on China's one child policy."

  Inner City Press also requested a copy of UNICEF's memorandum of understanding with the Chinese government's state media organization Xinhua, which has recently been publicizing the UN's "child protection" work.

  On the eve of the event, UNICEF refused to provide a copy of the MOU with Xinhua -- it pointed instead to a press release -- and responded to Inner City Press in writing that:

"UNICEF does not work in China on either population or family planning issues.This relationship is managed by another UN agency, UNFPA, which works with China's National Population and Family Planning Commission. UNICEF works only in maternal and child health with the Ministry of Health. We are not involved in the Government's Family Planning and Population policies or programmes and as such, we have no official position on the issue."

  Given UNICEF's rhetoric about its uncompromising protection of children, to hide behind UNFPA or say it takes no position on policies until it work with them seemed puzzling. Inner City Press went to UNICEF's headquarters on November 19, hoping to ask Executive Director Ann Veneman directly for her position.

  Ms. Veneman was appointed by then-President George W. Bush, and many have speculated that the Obama administration may have someone else in mind for the post. If this is indeed the dynamic, how would Ms. Veneman's silence on this issue of human rights in China play?

UNICEF's Ann Veneman, at left, Gucci but no policy. UNICEF has many good staff, but glitz and politics are beneath it

  At the press conference, at which Inner City Press despite raised hand was not called on to ask a question, Ms. Veneman and Lucy Liu were asked indirectly about the policy. An intrepid reporter from Xinhua asked about the disparity between male and female children in rural China, which is how UNICEF's relatd "State of the World's Children" report, at page 22, couched the issue.

  Ms. Veneman replied that "it is not only China" but that "we need to speak out." But why then does UNICEF not have a position -- that is, why does UNICEF not speak out?

  Lucy Liu, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, said that it is important for UNICEF to respect countries' "traditions." Whether the current Chinese government's one child policy can be construed as a tradition is unclear. Ms. Liu also said that China's greater number of males may lead to sexual violence and rape, equating a "room full of men" with "endorphins." Ms. Veneman laughed, seeming uncomfortable.

  The U.S. Congress recently heard testimony about China's One Child Policy. Ms. Veneman is known to micro-manage UNICEF's public communications on such topics, for example by insisting to see and personally approve any press release about countries such as Iraq or Afghanistan. In further micro management, UNICEF sources tell Inner City Press that when interviewed by her stealth partner Xinhua, Ms. Veneman gave stage direction such as to only film her from the "third button up." Xinhua, despite having at the UN several energetic or respected journalists, apparently complied.

  Whether such careful management, of camera shots and policy positions, leads to a second term for Ms. Veneman at UNICEF is not yet known. Watch this site.

* * *

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

* * *

These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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