Press Releases

    19 January 2005

    Biographical Note

    Secretary-General Appoints Ann M. Veneman, United States Secretary of Agriculture, as Executive Director of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

    NEW YORK, 18 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following consultations with the UNICEF Executive Board, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today announced the appointment of Ann M. Veneman, Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, as the new Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

    Ms. Veneman has outstanding qualifications and numerous accomplishments in the area of agricultural development and food security.  Since January 2001, she has been the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, the first woman to hold this post, and has presided over a momentous period in the history of American agriculture.

    She has focused strongly on new approaches to help feed the hungry around the world.  To help meet the Millennium Development Goal of halving global hunger by 2015, she has promoted science and technology as a means to accelerate agricultural productivity.  In 2003, she organized and hosted the first-ever Ministerial Conference on Science and Technology, which brought ministers from 120 nations to Sacramento, California, to discuss how science and technology can reduce hunger and poverty in the developing world. The conference, as well as subsequent regional conferences and follow-up activities, helped recapture the momentum of the 1996 World Food Summit.

    In the United States, Ms. Veneman oversaw the reauthorization of the food stamp and child nutrition programmes, which strengthen the ability of the Department to provide services to recipients and provide additional accountability to taxpayers.  She also finalized the transition from paper food stamps to electronic debit cards, which has reduced fraud in the programme.

    Ms. Veneman has long supported programmes to advance children at home and abroad.  She has worked to foster the next generation of agricultural leadership, establishing the Department of Agriculture’s “Leaders of Tomorrow” initiative to strengthen education programmes. The Department of Agriculture-administered McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program now supports projects in 21 countries reaching 2.3 million school children, mothers and infants. In addition to providing much-needed nutrition, the Program is a powerful incentive to draw children, especially girls, to the classroom.  She has worked to share United States expertise with other nations to help them improve their own nutrition

    Ms. Veneman has served in various positions at the Department of Agriculture and in State government. From 1991 to 1993, she was Deputy Secretary, the Department’s second-highest position. She also served as Deputy Under-Secretary of Agriculture for International Affairs and Commodity Programs from 1989 to 1991.  She joined the Department’s Foreign Agricultural Service in 1986 and eventually served as Associate Administrator until 1989. 

    She began her legal career as a staff attorney with the General Counsel’s Office of the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) in Oakland, California, in 1976. In 1978, she returned to her hometown of Modesto, where she served as a Deputy Public Defender.  In 1980, she joined the Modesto law firm of Damrell, Damrell and Nelson, where she was an associate and later a partner.  She left the firm in 1986 when she moved to Washington, D.C., to work at the United States Department of Agriculture.

    She practised law with the Washington, D.C., law firm of Patton Boggs from 1993 to 1995, before returning to California to serve, from 1995 to 1999, as the state’s Secretary of Food and Agriculture, where she managed agricultural programmes and services for largest and most diverse agriculture-producing state in the United States. Before her appointment as United States Secretary of Agriculture, Ms. Veneman was with the California law firm of Nossaman, Guthner, Knox and Elliott.

    Ms. Veneman earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Davis; a master’s degree in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley; and a juris doctorate degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law. She has also been awarded honorary doctorates by California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (2001); Lincoln University of Missouri (2003); and Delaware State University (2004).

    Ms. Veneman is expected to take up her new functions later in the year.

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