Former United States Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman today became the fifth chief of the 60-year-old United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and promised that the agency would play a key role in helping countries meet the Millennium Development Goals to reduce or eliminate major socio-economic ills by 2015. “The Millennium Development Goals reflect the wishes and the will of governments around the world and because they place such important emphasis on the well-being of children, UNICEF has a vital role to play in helping meet the goals,” she said on her first day as the Fund’s Executive Director. Ms. Veneman, who is a lawyer, said it was a great honour to lead UNICEF, “one of the world’s great institutions. “Too many children in the world face hardships and challenges that should never be a part of childhood. I look forward to continuing UNICEF’s mission of serving children around the globe,” she said. UNICEF’s continued success depended on strengthening existing partnerships, as well as forming new collaborations with governments, other UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), faith-based groups and communities, Ms. Veneman said. “Strengthening our collaboration with partners around the world can advance the goals of reducing poverty, malnutrition and disease, as well as helping to protect children from abuse and violence,” she said. Much of Ms. Veneman’s career has been focused on child nutrition, public health and alleviating hunger, including new approaches to help fight malnutrition around the world, UNICEF said. She arrives at the Fund with vast experience in leading a far-reaching global agency that engages with thousands of partners and governments, it added. She succeeded Carol Bellamy, who previously had been head of the US Peace Corps.