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UNICEF chief to step down after nearly four years in job

Henrietta Fore, UNICEF

The head of the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore, plans to step down to deal with a family health issue, a U.N. spokesperson said on Tuesday (13 July).

Fore, a former head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) who was appointed to run UNICEF by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in 2018, will stay in the job until a replacement is found.

Fore said it had been “a difficult decision”, and in a message to staff, described holding the office of Executive Director as “a tremendous honour”.

“To serve the world’s children is both exhilarating and fascinating. You have achieved remarkable accomplishments at an extraordinary time, and we have so much more to do”, she told the UNICEF team.

She said she would continue in the top job until the end of the Executive Board cycle this year and the opening of the UN General Assembly in September, and will remain “until my successor has been chosen”.

She added that in the meantime, she would continue to lead on developing the agency’s Strategic Plan, and also focus on countries’ access to COVID-19 vaccines; to help the safe return to classrooms across the world; “and further accelerate our work in both humanitarian and development contexts”, to ensure a “bright future for every child.”

Guterres thanked Fore for “her inspiring leadership of UNICEF and for her service to improve the lives of children all around the world,” noting UNICEF’s critical role in the global response to COVID-19, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said.

“As a result of her leadership, UNICEF is now an organization with a broader array of public and private sector partnerships and a bolder focus on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” Haq added, referring to a set of global goals adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2015. They include ending extreme poverty and hunger, reducing inequality and achieving gender equality.

Since it was established in 1946, UNICEF has had seven executive directors – all Americans.

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