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CONTROVERSY OVER THE NEW UNICEF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR.
HEALTH ACTIVISTS SET UP "UNICEF WATCH".
Berkeley, Bangalore and Manila; 28 April 05: The newly appointed chief of UNICEF has come under heavy criticism from health activists worldwide. People's Health Movement, a global coalition of grass roots activists and academics, is launching a "UNICEF WATCH" to monitor the new director's 'anti-children' activities and thus defend UNICEF and the rights of children.
Ms. Ann Veneman, former US Secretary of Agriculture, is set to begin a 5-year term as the Executive Director of UNICEF on May 2, 2005. "We will be monitoring her every move" said Todd Jailer, a spokesperson for the UNICEF WATCH.
"Ms. Veneman lacks any public health or child welfare qualifications" said Tawnia Queen, a spokesperson for the People's Health Movement in the United States. Ms Veneman publicly stated that women's reproductive health has nothing to do with child health and suggested that UNICEF would not continue program activities in these areas. The People's Health Movement says that research studies and experience show the contrary.
Several health groups, NGOs and civil society organsiations expressed their collective concern over the appointment. They fear that her tenure at UNICEF signals an end to the proud history and essential mission of UNICEF. "Her activities in the United States have consistently worked against people's access to safe, nutritious food and the land to grow it on" Todd Jailer said.
This new watchdog body is a collective effort of people from various walks of life like health and consumer activists, researchers and academics, civil society initiatives working to protect the rights of the children and women's groups, media and others. The People's Health Movement, that has with grassroots presence in nearly 100 countries, is piloting the watchdog body.
The key issues that will come under the scrutiny of the UNICEF WATCH are:
- Any move that may place Children's well-being beneath corporate profits
because Ms. Veneman has championed the unrestrained pursuit of profit for corporations as an economic right at the cost of human rights.
- Any move that may undermine Child nutrition and food security because in
the past, Ms. Veneman's activities in the United States have consistently worked against people's access to safe, nutritious food and the land to grow it on.
- Health of women and mothers because Ms. Veneman publicly stated that
women's reproductive health has nothing to do with child health, despite all studies and experience to the contrary, and suggested that UNICEF would not continue program activities in these areas.
Since the U.S. government rammed the appointment of Ms. Veneman through the office of the Secretary General and UNICEF Executive Board in January this year, the People's Health Movement, circulated an 'Open Letter of Concern' protesting the secret nomination and closed confirmation processes. The letter (posted at www.saveunicef.org) enumerates the reasons why Ms. Veneman's background makes her completely unsuitable for her new position. To date the letter has attracted over 2000 signatures from around the world.
The People's Health Movement recognizes that all children have a right to a healthy and dignified future, and that UNICEF has for six decades been the international organization charged with vigilance over and fulfillment of that future. "We will expose if she tries to derail the UNICEF and place corporate profits ahead of children's lives" said Ravi Narayan, the spokesperson for the Global Secretariat of the People's Health Movement.
The corporate take over of health care and the increasing grip of transnational companies on health is a key issue for the upcoming [http://www.iphcglobal.org/pha2.htm People's Health Assembly-2] scheduled to be held in Ecuador in July 2005.
For more information, contact:
Todd Jailer or Tawnia Queen at PHM USA (Ph: + 01 510 845 1447 )
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