Ann Veneman is currently  the Executive Director of UNICEF, the children’s agency of the United Nations. She became the fifth Executive Director to lead UNICEF in its 60-year history. She was appointed to the UNICEF position by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on January 18, 2005, and took over the position on May 1, 2005. At UNICEF, Veneman directs a global agency with about 10,000 staff members, and an annual budget of about $3 billion. UNICEF works in, and provides services to, about 156 developing countries to help children survive and thrive. Among other services, UNICEF provides vaccines, supports child health and nutrition, provides support for clean water and sanitation, and supports protection of children from violence and exploitation.
Veneman was eminently qualified for her current position as Executive Director of UNICEF. Prior to her UNICEF appointment, Veneman had served in the United States Department of Agriculture [USDA] for over 10 years. Her most recent position in the USDA was as its Secretary. She was nominated for the Secretary position by President George Bush in late 2000, following his election in November 2000 for the presidency of the United States. Veneman’s nomination for the position was approved by the U. S. Senate, and her appointment began on January 20, 2001. She served for the entire first term of President George Bush, and she left at the end of the term to take up the position as Executive Director of UNICEF. Veneman had begun her career at USDA in 1986, as an Associate Administrator. In 1989, she was promoted to Deputy Undersecretary of USDA, and in 1991, she became the Deputy Secretary of USDA, the second highest position in USDA. She remained in that position until 1993. So up until 1993, she already had accumulated seven years of USDA experience at various leadership levels.
Veneman’s experiential and educational background was in politics and law. She earned a B. S. degree in Political Science from the University of California at Davis, a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law.
Veneman was raised on a fruit farm in Modesto, California. She was not new to politics, because her father had been a member of the California State Assembly, and also had served as Undersecretary of Health, Education and Welfare. Veneman’s first professional position was in the public sector, working as a staff attorney for the Bay Area Rapid Transit District [BART] in Oakland, California, starting in 1976.
During Veneman’s tenure as Secretary of USDA, she made some noteworthy contributions. Among others, she focused on new approaches to feed the hungry around the world. In 2003, she hosted the Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology, which brought together ministers from 120 nations to Sacramento, California to discuss how science and technology can reduce hunger and poverty in the developing countries. Also under her leadership, USDA released dietary guidelines which stressed moderation across a wide variety of food groups. And finally under her administration, USDA received its first ever clean financial audit.
During Veneman’s tenure as Executive Director of UNICEF, among others, Veneman made the Millenium Development Goals [MDG’s] a priority. The goals had been developed earlier, but it was Veneman who took the bull by the horns, and worked hard to have the goals implemented, instead of just ignoring previously set goals, as frequently had been done within the United Nations. Veneman also focused on using partnerships with other organizations to leverage the assets under her control to make improvements in the conditions of children in the developing countries. In January 2006, the editor of “Lancet”, an influential British medical journal noted that, “…UNICEF has emerged under new leadership [Veneman’s] as a crucial protagonist for child survival”.
Veneman’s contributions to society, and especially to those members of global society who have been underserved, have not gone unnoticed. She has received several honorary doctorate degrees including ones from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in 2001, from Lincoln University of Missouri in 2003, from Delaware State University in 2004, and from Middlebury College in 2006. Veneman has also been honored with numerous awards. For this biography the most noteworthy award is the Dutch American Heritage Award in 2002. Among numerous others, she also was awarded the University of California at Davis Outstanding Alumna of the Year Award in 2001. In 2003, she was awarded the Goldman School of Public Policy Alumnus of the Year Award, and the California Agriculturist of the Year Award. And in 2004, she was awarded the History Channel’s Save Our History Leadership Award.
Ann Veneman faced a personal tragedy in 2002, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, she received successful treatment, and was able to continue making her contributions to the global society in which she lives.
Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman, http://www.whitehouse.gov/government/veneman-bio-html
Ann Veneman, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ann_Veneman
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