The Next UNICEF Chief: Is US Nominee a Shoo-in?

If tradition is to be followed, Anthony Lake may be on his way to leading UNICEF. He is the U.S. nominee for executive director at the United Nations agency, a post consistently held by Americans since UNICEF was created in 1946.

The U.S. government’s nomination, however, doesn’t automatically make him an official candidate. It is U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call to endorse an official candidate for approval by the UNICEF board.

Foreign Policy’s “The Cable” blog noted that Ban has a record of appointing non-Americans to positions traditionally held by Americans. Case in point: the U.N. Department of Management.

An unnamed U.N. source quoted by Foreign Policy said even though it has been the practice to accept the U.S. nominee as UNICEF head, it is not the rule.

Ban is expected to endorse a new UNICEF executive director soon. The term of current Executive Director Ane Veneman will expire April 30.

Laura Rozen shared on her Politico blog a memo from the State Department, saying that the deadline for countries to forward nominations was Feb. 12. There is no news on nominees from other countries as of Feb. 19.

If Ban decides to nominate Lake and he is approved, what can the former Clinton national security adviser and Obama’s foreign policy adviser during the campaign bring to one of the U.N.’s most popular agencies?

He has firsthand experience of UNICEF operations as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice noted in her letter to fellow ambassadors. Lake served for nine years on the board of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, including as chairman from 2004 to 2007, and now serves as a permanent honorary member.

Lake is currently a professor of diplomacy with the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He was rumored to be in the race for several government positions when Obama took office but reportedly declined, saying he did not plan on entering politics again.

Outside politics and UNICEF, Lake served in 1998 as a member of the U.N. Panel of High-Level Personalities on African Development, which was tasked to mobilize international support for development in the region. He was also on the boards of various other organizations, including the Overseas Development Council, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Save the Children.

About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.