The United Nations Children's Fund (or UNICEF) was created by the United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 1946, to provide emergency food and healthcare to children in countries that had been devastated by World War II. In 1953, UNICEF became a permanent part of the United Nations System and its name was shortened from the original United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund but it has continued to be known by the popular acronym based on this old name. Headquartered in New York City, UNICEF provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries.
A voluntarily funded agency, UNICEF relies on contributions from governments and private donors. Its programs emphasize developing community-level services to promote the health and well-being of children. UNICEF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965 and Prince of Asturias Award of Concord in 2006. In the United States, Canada and some other countries, UNICEF is known for its "Trick-Or-Treat for UNICEF" program in which children collect money for UNICEF from the houses they trick-or-treat at on Halloween night, sometimes instead of candy. UNICEF is present in 190 countries and territories around the world.
Following the reaching of term limits by Executive Director of UNICEF Carol Bellamy, former United States Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman took control of the organization in May 2005 with an agenda to increase the organization's focus on the Millennium Development Goals. Total income to UNICEF for 2006 was $2,781,000,000.
UNICEF is currently focused on five primary priorities: Child Survival and Development, Basic Education and Gender Equality (including girls' education), Child protection from violence, exploitation, and abuse, HIV/AIDS and children, and Policy advocacy and partnerships for children’s rights. Related areas of UNICEF action include early childhood development, adolescence development and participation, life skills based education and child rights all over the world.
UNICEF works to improve the status of their priorities through 14 methods ranging from direct and legal interventions to education and beyond to research and census data collection.
The plus in the programme is the additional immunizations made possible during interventions. Ranging from client education to nutritional supplements to insecticide-treated mosquito netting, these life-saving services make immunization programmes a powerful tool for child health.
Among many other programmes, UNICEF supports the international Child Rights Information Network. In 2007, UNICEF published An Overview of child well-being in rich countries, which showed the UK and the USA at the bottom of a league of 21 economically advanced nations when it comes to overall child well-being.
UNICEF applies a holistic, evidence-based approach to early childhood, including the following principles:
Overall management and administration of the organization takes place at its headquarters in New York. UNICEF's Supply Division is based in Copenhagen and serves as the primary point of distribution for such essential items as lifesaving vaccines, antiretroviral medicines for children and mothers with HIV, nutritional supplements, emergency shelters, educational supplies, and more.
Many people in developed countries first hear about UNICEF's work through the activities of 37 National Committees for UNICEF. These non-governmental organizations (NGO) are primarily responsible for fundraising, selling UNICEF greeting cards and products, creating private and public partnerships, advocating for children’s rights, and providing other invaluable support. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF is the oldest of the National Committees, founded in 1947. New Zealand appointed, in 2005, 18-year-old Hayley Westenra, a talented, world famous opera / pop singer as their Ambassador to UNICEF, in an effort to enlist the youth of the world in supporting UNICEF. Westenra has made several trips to visit underprivileged children in third world countries on behalf of UNICEF, in an effort to publicize their plight, and has engaged in fund-raising activities in support of the UNICEF mission, as well.
UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary funds. Governments contribute two thirds of the organization's resources; private groups and some 6 million individuals contribute the rest through the National Committees.
Guiding and monitoring all of UNICEF's work is a 36-member Executive Board which establishes policies, approves programs and oversees administrative and financial plans. The Executive Board is made up of government representatives who are elected by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, usually for three-year terms.
The Centre, formally known as the International Child Development Centre, has as its prime objectives to improve international understanding of the issues relating to children's rights, to promote economic policies that advance the cause of children, and to help facilitate the full implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in industrialized and developing countries.
The programme for 2006-2008 was approved by UNICEF Executive Board in September 2005. It reaffirms the Centre's academic freedom and the focus of IRC's research on knowledge gaps, emerging questions and sensitive issues which are relevant to the realization of children's rights, in developing and industrialized countries. It capitalizes on IRC's role as an interface between UNICEF field experience, international experts, research networks and policy makers and is designed to strengthen the Centre's institutional collaboration with regional academic and policy institutions, pursuing the following four goals:
Three interrelated strategies will guide the achievement of these goals:
Nevertheless, many groups, governments, and individuals have criticized UNICEF over the years for what they view as failing to meet the needs of their particular group or interest. Recent examples include criticism of its perceived failure to hold the Government of Sudan adequately accountable for the practice of slavery in southern Sudan, its policy against the marketing of breast milk substitutes in developing world hospitals, and its adherence to the 1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by every member state in the United Nations except for the United States (which is a signatory to the convention) and Somalia.
Unlike NGOs, UNICEF is an inter-governmental organization and thus is accountable to governments. This gives it unique reach and access in every country in the world, but may also sometimes hamper its ability to speak out publicly on rights violations, or to openly criticise the policies and actions of governments.
UNICEF has also been criticised for having political bias by NGO Monitor, an Israeli NGO with the stated aim of monitoring other non-governmental organizations operating in the Middle East. NGO Monitor asserts that while UNICEF aims to fund only non-political organisations, it also funded "Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation" (PYALARA), a student-run Palestinian NGO. NGO Monitor alleges that PYALARA has a covert political agenda justifying suicide bombings and demonising Israel.
The Catholic Church has also been critical of UNICEF, with the Vatican at times withdrawing its donations, because of reports by the American Life League and others that UNICEF has used some of those funds to finance sterilizations and abortions.
A further example is the emotive issue of intercountry adoptions from Guatemala. The country has ratified the Hague Convention of 29 May 1993 on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption with effect from 1 January 2008. UNICEF has been criticised by some interested parties of failing to support adoptions that are underway before the deadline but, once again, this fails to recognise UNICEF's status and obligations as an international organisation, rather than an NGO.
On 7 September 2006, an agreement between UNICEF and the Catalan club FC Barcelona was reached whereby the club would donate 0.7% of its total yearly revenue to the organization for five years. As part of the agreement, FC Barcelona will wear the UNICEF logo on the front of their shirts, which will be the first time a football club sponsored an organization rather than the other way around. It is also the first time in FC Barcelona's history that they have had another organization's name across the front of their shirts.
In January 2007, UNICEF struck a partnership with Canada's national tent pegging team. The team was officially re-flagged as "UNICEF Team Canada", its riders wear UNICEF's logo in competition, and team members promote and raise funds for UNICEF's campaign against childhood HIV-AIDS. When the team became the 2008 tent pegging world champions, UNICEF's flag was raised alongside the Canadian flag at the games, the first time in the history of international Grand Prix equestrian competition that a non-state flag has flown over the medal podium.
The Swedish club Hammarby IF followed the Spanish and Canadian lead on 14 April 2007, also raising funds for UNICEF and displaying the UNICEF name on their sportswear. The Danish soccer club Brøndby IF will do likewise from the summer of 2008.
UNICEF recently announced a landmark partnership with Rangers F.C. UNICEF will partner the Rangers Charity Foundation and have pledged to raise £300,000 by 2011.