Statement by Mr. Kul C. Gautam Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) at the Annual Donor Consultation with the Government of France

(17 September 2004, NYHQ)

Dear friends,

Welcome to this annual consultation between the government of France and UNICEF. I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Government and people of the Republic of France for their strong and steadfast support to UNICEF over the years. We can be truly proud of this very special partnership between UNICEF and France.

Our cooperation covers a variety of areas. We appreciate the active participation of France in the Executive Board. We value the policy guidance we receive from the French government. We are privileged to have a large number of French staff members in UNICEF. 

Today, there are 192 French nationals working as UNICEF staff around the world, including 110 international professionals and 7 heads of offices. This makes France the 3rd most represented nationality in terms of international professional staff in UNICEF.

UNICEF procures significant amount of supplies and equipment from France for our programmes in developing countries. In 2003, France was the second largest source of procurement for commodities worth over US$79 million. Most important items were vaccines, biologicals, and essential drugs produced by Aventis Pasteur. 

We also purchase from the French supplies for our programmes, such as medical equipment, renewables, hygiene kits, clothing and footwear, nutrition (Nutriset), education, water and sanitation, and also for UNICEF’s  operations, including Renault trucks, communication equipment and IT/office supplies among others.

In the field, we have good cooperation between UNICEF offices and French bilateral technical cooperation.  Many UNICEF staff have studied in France we benefit from the French academic and research institutions. 

And UNICEF, of course, receives modest, but modest, but much valued financial support from the Government of France and more substantial funding from the people of France through the French National Committee.

Speaking of the National Committee, let me pay tribute to Monsieur Jacques Hintzy and other colleagues of the French NatCom.  It is one of the most successful Natcoms. 

We value not only the substantial financial support from the French Committee, which is more than 3 times the amount of the contribution from the French government, but the manner in which the NatCom raises funds, publicizes the work of UNICEF and advocates for the rights of children.

UNICEF in France is well-known for its large network of volunteers – some 3000 permanent and 2000 ponctuel, who are actively involved in public awareness raising on the situation of vulnerable children in developing countries and on UNICEF programmes, as well as fundraising through the sales of greeting cards and souvenir, the collection of contributions and donations, and organising special fundraising events. 

As I said earier, this wonderful cooperation between UNICEF and France is not new. We have been cooperating for over 5 decades!  And if we go back in history, in 1947, France contributed 900,000 francs to UNICEF, a significant amount in those days.  UNICEF’s regional office for Europe was in Paris at first and many important policy-making discussions were held in Paris.

For example, in 1947 UNICEF Executive Board set up a committee to consider support for medical projects throughout the world under the chairmanship of a prominent French paediatrician, Professor Robert Debré.

Debré helped UNICEF launch and lead a major anti-tuberculosis programme in Eastern Europe in the late 1940s.  The International Tuberculosis Campaign (ITC) was the largest vaccination campaign ever undertaken up to that time.

For many years, Professor Debré represented UNICEF at the Joint Committee on Health Policy that brought together members of the Executive Boards of WHO and UNICEF to coordinate our health policies.  It was perhaps the oldest, longest lasting, and most meaningful inter-agency coordinating mechanism in the history of the United Nations.

In 1950, the French government set up an International Children’s Centre (ICC) under the leadership of Robert Debré. The ICC became the hub and a global point of reference for the best training, research and documentation on the latest in child health in tropical countries.

Hundreds of UNICEF staff and our government counterparts from developing countries were trained at or received technical assistance from ICC.

Professor Debré was one of the key inventors and innovators of what came to be known as “social paediatricians” – a fusion of paediatrics with community development – going beyond hospital wards to promote maternal and child health (MCH) in rural neighbourhoods and urban slums.

As UNICEF evolved from being an emergency fund for children in post-war Europe to a development partner for developing countries, France played an important role in this transformation.

In fact, the earliest programmes of UNICEF cooperation in Sub-Saharan Africa in the 1950s were negotiated with France, who was in those days a major colonial power in the region.

This wonderful cooperation between France and UNICEF was given a big boost when the French National Committee was founded in 1964. 

Over the years, the National Committee has been a major force in mobilising public opinion in France in favour of children and development in developing countries.

There has been an excellent fusion of ideas and experiences between UNICEF and the French National Committee with leaders like François Rémy, Paul Audat and many others who have served UNICEF with great distinction and commitment.

As you know, UNICEF’s work in the world these days is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Declaration Goals, as well as the targets and goals of the World Fit for Children, which are the outcomes of the Special Session on Children.

We just had earlier this week an exhaustive debate on the Mid-Term Review of UNICEF’s Medium Term Strategic Plan and we were happy that France participated actively in the debate and the Board emphasized that we must continue with our current 5 organizational priorities – Girls’ Education, Early Child Development, Immunization Plus, Fighting HIV/AIDS and Child Protection – as well as providing Humanitarian Relief to children and women.

As we prepare our new strategic plan next year, we will continue to seek guidance of France and other Board members.

As I look to the challenges ahead for UNICEF, I see… (add challenges 1.  2.  3. ) 

With the exception in the poorest and the least developed countries in the world, UNICEF is not a significant source of funding support to developing countries. 

Our main support is primarily in the area of policy dialogue, advocacy, mobilizing government and citizens to do the right things and for children to demonstrate some effective programme delivery to provide basic services that governments, citizens and other large donors can help take to scale.

However, for UNICEF to be accepted as a serious partner in policy dialogue, to get a seat around the table, UNICEF needs a minimum of capacity, staff, funding, some supplies, equipment and training grants.

We find that the resources available at the disposal of UNICEF at present are inadequate, to meet the needs and expectation of developing countries and to fulfil the potential of UNICEF’s capacity to provide services to these countries.

So, fundraising is a major challenge for us and in particular, mobilizing regular resources that provide us with adequate flexibility is of critical importance.

I cannot help but note that while the people, citizens of France are among the most generous in providing UNICEF great support through the French Natcom, the governmental contribution of France to UNICEF’s resources is extremely modest.

France is a great economic power – the fourth largest economy in the world.  But in terms of governmental contribution to UNICEF, France ranks number 14 – lower than some of its much smaller neighbours, such as Ireland, Switzerland, Netherlands and all the Scandinavian countries.

If the government of France matched the per capita contribution of its citizens through the NatCom, France’s annual contribution to UNICEF would be at least 3 times as much or about € 36 million, instead of just € 8.6 million. If contributions to UNICEF were not voluntary but assessed contributions on the Scale of the UN, France’s share would also be around € 21 million for regular resources.

A desirable range for France’s total financial contribution to UNICEF would in fact be € 100 million, which would bring it to the not so unreasonable level of the UK, Norway, Sweden and Japan. This is a bit of a dream. But I hope that you share our dreams and we can work together to realise this dream in the coming years.

The development objectives of France and UNICEF are identical. France gives high priority to achieving the MDGs, to reduce poverty, to promote human rights, to give special attention to Sub-Saharan Africa and least developed countries. These are precisely the priorities for UNICEF as well. 

Therefore, if France were looking for a development partner whose policies, priorities, and working methods match closely with that of France, I dare say that no other agency matches the shared values of France as UNICEF.

So we very much look forward to France continuing to engage with us as provider of policy advice, technical assistance, human resources, supplies and equipment and a significantly increased level of financial support. 

Thank you.