The Estonian president, Kersti Kaljulaid, has been appointed the first global advocate for “every woman every child” by the UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres.
Kaljulaid was appointed at her meeting with Guterres at the United Nation’s headquarters in New York City; the appointment lasts two years.
“In a time of complex development challenges, the investments we make today in women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health and well-being will help build the peaceful, sustainable and inclusive societies we have promised to achieve through the [UN] sustainable development goals,” Guterres said in a statement, underlining that “women and children are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis” and are “disproportionately impacted” by growing conflicts and rising social inequality.
To help overcome these challenges, Guterres created a new role – global advocate on “every woman every child” and the next two years the role will be filled by Kaljulaid.
The secretary-general said Kaljulaid “embodies the mission of ‘every woman every child’ – she is keen to leverage technology as an ‘equalizer of opportunity’ to reach those left furthest behind and build bridges to address the most pressing challenges facing women, children and adolescents.”
A global role
The Estonian president said in a statement that no person or organisation can make a change alone, but different countries, international organisations and the civil society have an opportunity to “initiate change in a smaller scale or to give it a momentum”. “This is an opportunity offered by the role of global advocate,” Kaljulaid said.
The initiative – “every woman every child” – was launched in 2010 by the former UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon. According to the UN, since the launch, more than a billion children have been vaccinated and 25 million child marriages were prevented.
Kaljulaid said in many countries, the life of women and children is still depressing. “Every day more than 14,000 under five-year-old children die, in every 13 seconds a new-born dies, in every hour 33 women die in childbirth. A lot of these deaths could be prevented – by better access to health care, by education, by humanitarian help and in developing the situation on human rights,” she said in a statement.
The Estonian president said she would mainly focus on three goals: reducing maternal mortality, increasing nutritional security and enhancing innovation and the use of digital solutions. She added she sees the role of the global advocate as mainly the creator and leader of a network, working with different UN agencies, the World Health Organisation, the World Bank, Red Cross and other organisations.
Kaljulaid does not have a separate secretariat or a budget in her new role.
Cover: The Estonian president, Kersti Kaljulaid, and the UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, meeting at the UN headquarters in New York. Photo by Mattias Tammet.