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U.S. nominates Tony Lake to head UNICEF

U.S. nominates Tony Lake to head UNICEF

Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, formally put forward W. Anthony Lake‘s name as the U.S. choice to serve as the new executive director of the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), raising expectations that he will take over the popular U.N. relief agency when its current leader Ann Veneman steps down in April.

In a letter to key U.N. ambassadors, Rice said "the United States has nominated Anthony Lake to be considered for appointment as the next Executive Director of UNICEF." She said Lake, 70, has a "longstanding commitment to UNICEF" and that he served on the board of the agency’s U.S. branch for nine years.

Rice highlighted Lake’s experience as U.S. national security advisor in President Bill Clinton’s cabinet, where he shaped U.S. peace strategies in the Balkans and Northern Ireland. She also played up his experience in various panels and institutes, including the Marshall Legacy Institute, where he advanced the cause of poor people, including children, in Africa.

"Tony’s work with UNICEF builds on a lifetime commitment to advancing children’s rights, protection, welfare, development and education," she said.

Lake — whose likely nomination was first reported on The Cable more than a month ago — was a foreign-policy advisor to then-Senator Obama during his presidential campaign.

U.N. officials said the release of Rice’s letter (excerpts of which were first published by the Associated Press) may prove awkward for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is responsible for appointing the next UNICEF chief in consultations with the organization’s 37-member board. Ban’s predecessor, Kofi Annan, frequently requested that he be given a slate of candidates so that he could make the choice.

It’s unlikely the job will not go to the American candidate, officials noted. Every previous UNICEF director has come from the United States, the agency’s largest donor.

Here’s a list of the current and prior UNICEF executive directors, all Americans:

Maurice Pate – from 1947-65
Henry R. Labouisse – 1965-79
James P. Grant – 1980-95
Carol Bellamy – 1995-2005
Ann M. Veneman – May 1 2005 – Apr 30 2010

Rice’s full letter is below the jump.

February 17, 2010


The United States’ commitment to the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) has never been stronger.  It is in this spirit that I wanted to let you know that the United States has nominated Anthony Lake to be considered for appointment as the next Executive Director of UNICEF and to underscore the extraordinary experience, strategic vision and energy he would bring to UNICEF’s essential work. 

Tony has a deep and longstanding commitment to UNICEF as an organization as well as to all aspects of its mandate and mission, including advancing the rights of the child, protection of children, reducing poverty and delivering results for children.  He served for nine years on the Board of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, including as Chair from 2004-2007, and now serves as a permanent honorary member.  As Chairman, Tony oversaw a significant increase in private funding for the organization.  In addition to his ongoing involvement with the U.S. National Committee, he has seen UNICEF in action in countries across Africa, in Haiti, and elsewhere. 

Tony’s work with UNICEF builds on a lifetime commitment to advancing children’s rights, protection, welfare, development, and education.  As the Chair of the Marshall Legacy Institute, he has played an active role in war-torn countries by establishing sustainable programs to remove landmines, to assist survivors and to advance the Children Against Mines program.  In 1998, Tony was a member of the UN Panel of High-Level Personalities on African Development, which helped mobilize international support for development efforts. In 1968, Lake conducted local development surveys for the Ministry of Economic Planning in Kenya.  As Director of International Voluntary Services, he provided leadership to an organization that sent large numbers of volunteers to developing countries.  He has served on the boards of, and provided strategic guidance to, several significant organizations, including the Overseas Development Council, Save the Children, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. 

An effective and strong manager, Tony has worked on the full range of foreign policy, national security, humanitarian and development issues at the most senior level.  He is also a skilled diplomat and advocate for peace, who has worked closely with leaders and policymakers from all over the world.  He helped shape the policies that led to peace in Bosnia and Northern Ireland.  Among his many diplomatic assignments, he served as the President’s Special Envoy for Ethiopia and Eritrea, helping to achieve the Algiers Agreement which ended the war between the two countries and as the President’s Special Envoy for Haiti, drawing upon his longstanding and substantive experience working on political, security, and development issues in Haiti,.  

With his dedication to public service, his strong management and fundraising skills and his deep commitment to improving the welfare and well-being of children, Tony Lake would make an outstanding Executive Director for UNICEF.  UNICEF faces critical challenges and opportunities in the years ahead.  Active support from member states will be crucial to seizing those opportunities, and I look forward to continuing to work together to meet them.


Susan E. Rice