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‘Focusing on the most vulnerable is the right and most practical thing to do’

July 21, 2011


This statement concluded Tony Lake’s short seminar at IDS yesterday on UNICEF Equity agenda. Tony Lake is UNICEF’s Executive Director and is pushing efforts to refocus UNICEF’s work towards equity and focusing on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged across the world. His argument for doing so is two-fold: 1) it is the right thing to do, 2) it is necessary if we want to succeed in reaching universal coverage of global compaigns (such as eradication of polio or education for all). He also acknowledged the challenges in doing so; reality is that reaching out to the poorest communities and support the hard-to-reach is costly. In fact, Tony Lake stated, because of our desire to gain quick results at relatively low cost by reaching for the ‘low-hanging fruits’, the gap in under-5 mortality rates between the poorest and richest is actually widening. So can support to the hard-to-reach also be cost-effective? In reference to a modelling exercise, he suggested that current experience in supporting the poorest and most marginalized groups has grown to such an extent that we can indeed save equally as many children’s lives or more for the same amount of money when following an ‘equity strategy’ .

It was obvious that Tony Lake had given this talk many times before but he still managed to be inspirational; not merely for its contents but also for his clear personal involvement in the issues at hand. Nevertheless, comments were raised in reference to what such an equity strategy means and to what extent it takes equity into account beyond the mere coverage of the poorest and most vulnerably but also with respect to the way in which they are supported. Also, it will be interesting to see how such a strategy, devised at the top ranks of UNICEF, will actually play out in the field.




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