Agriculture Secretary Veneman Named UNICEF Director
Outgoing Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman -- whom U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has nominated to become executive director of UNICEF in May -- on Tuesday said reproductive health and education issues were not relevant to the agency's mission, the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. If confirmed by UNICEF's board, Veneman would replace Carol Bellamy, who will end her second five-year term as director on April 30. At a press conference on Tuesday, Veneman was asked to clarify her views on UNICEF's "long-standing" policy of favoring comprehensive reproductive health programs, which is "at odds" with the Bush administration's policy of promoting abstinence as the best way to prevent the spread of HIV, according to the AP/Post-Intelligencer (Lederer, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1/18). Veneman said, "I don't come with any agenda with regard to those or any other social issues," adding, "I come with an agenda of helping children, particularly in the areas of education and health and to address the issues of hunger and malnutrition."
Veneman To Serve as 'Bridge' to Bush Administration
Veneman was President Bush's choice for the position, and the nomination by Annan is seen as part of an effort by the United Nations to "patch up strained relations with the Bush administration," according to VOA News (Heinlein, VOA News, 1/19). Bush administration officials have made "no secret of their frustration" over Bellamy's position on sex education and contraception use and have "waited eagerly" for her to leave the agency, the Washington Times reports (Pisik, Washington Times, 1/19). Veneman said she would attempt to "serve as a bridge" to the Bush administration in working toward the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals, according to VOA News. Annan said Veneman is an "outstanding candidate" to head UNICEF, VOA News reports. "Ms. Veneman's extensive experience, as well as her personal commitment to UNICEF's values and mission, make her an eminently suitable person to lead UNICEF," Annan said, adding, "Obviously, relationships and contacts in Washington will be helpful, as we have in the past used contacts and relationships of others" (VOA News, 1/19).
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Tuesday reported on Veneman's appointment and views, as well as Bellamy's work on reproductive health. The segment includes comments from Johanna Mendelson Foreman, senior program officer for the United Nations Foundation (Montagne, "Morning Edition," NPR, 1/18). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.