New York: Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Dr Maleeha Lodhi has stressed that “Children should be front and center of the global development agenda.”

Speaking in her capacity as President of the UNICEF Executive Board in New York on Friday,  Ambassador Lodhi urged  members and delegates to continue to work together to ensure that  the best interest of children are promoted in the Post 2015 Development Agenda.

She said, “Let us use the influence we have as policymakers and thought leader, to position children at the heart of the development agendas of governments and nations”.

Ambassador Lodhi said that UNICEF’s annual meeting was being held at a time of great opportunity, but also great challenge. The opportunity, she said, was presented by the approaching historic milestone that will see the endorsement of the post-2015 development agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, and the promise of greater priority being accorded to the well being of children. “But this is also a time of peril for humanitarian workers in so many parts of the world. That is why I want to start by recognizing and paying tribute to the heroic work of UNICEF staff around the world, especially those who work under difficult, if not life-threatening, conditions”.

Highlighting the importance of Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals, Ambassador Lodhi said that 2015 was the target year for the MDGs, which had served to improve the lives of many millions of children, and also helped the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged. “And it marks the beginning of the SDGs and post-2015 agenda, which must improve the lives and change the destinies of millions more”, she added.

Terming the post-2015 Agenda as an unprecedented roadmap for future development Ambassador Lodhi said that while just a few months were left in concretely setting goals and targets, it was not the time to pause and rest. “We must continue to work together for the best interests of children until the very day the Goals and agenda are adopted”, she added.

Ambassador Lohdi also underscored the importance of resources to achieve the desired development objectives. While expressing satisfaction on the progress made on strengthening financing for development, she said that at the national level, goals and agendas would not make much impact without securing financing as an indispensable vehicle.

She emphasized the need to reach all the children with interventions in the crucial early years, with health care, nutrition, education, protection and an enabling environment in which their full potential is realized. “No real progress can be made for children unless all children, particularly the most disadvantaged and marginalized, are reached throughout the world”, she added.

 Ambassador Lodhi lamented that conflict and crises in different parts of the world were growing with children and women bearing the main brunt of suffering. She said that if children must be reached during times of peace and calm, they were even more vulnerable during times of conflict and crisis. UNICEF and its partners, she said, were making a tremendous effort to deal with an ever-greater number of emergency situations around the globe.

Talking about the paucity of resources to provide assistance to children in emergency situations, she said that it was discouraging and disconcerting that so many of these emergencies go under funded. “This assistance is needed not only during emergencies but also later, in rebuilding devastated economies and societies. It is time for us to invoke our consciences and commit to do more to help children in emergency situations”, she added.