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United Nations Children’s Fund

United Nations Children's Fund

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.

Priorities

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.

Education

Education is a proven intervention for improving the lives of all people, including children. Educating young women yields spectacular benefits for the current and future generations, and specifically affects a range of UNICEF priorities including child survival, children in family, immunization, and child protection.

''UNICEF’s aim is to get more girls and boys into school, ensure that they stay in school and that they are equipped with the basic tools they need to succeed in later life. As part of its on-going efforts to ensure every girl and boy their right to an education, UNICEF’s acceleration strategy is speeding progress in girls’ and boys' enrollment in 25 selected countries during the 2002–2005 period.

Immunization plus

Immunization is a direct intervention method which has made great improvements in the health of children worldwide over the past 20 years. But every year, more than 2 million children die from diseases that could have been prevented by inexpensive vaccines.

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.

Child protection and well-being

UNICEF uses the term ‘child protection’ to refer to preventing and responding to violence, exploitation and abuse against children and teens (both real and fictional children and teens) up to 18 yrs – including commercial sexual exploitation, trafficking, child labor and harmful traditional practices, such as female genital cutting/mutilation and child marriage. UNICEF’s child protection programmes also target children who are uniquely vulnerable to these abuses, such as when living without parental care, in conflict with the law and in armed conflict. Violations of the child’s right to protection take place in every country and are massive, under-recognized and under-reported barriers to child survival and development, in addition to being human rights violations. Children subjected to violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect are at risk of death, poor physical and mental health, HIV/AIDS infection, educational problems, displacement, homelessness, vagrancy and poor parenting skills later in life.

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.

HIV/AIDS

15 million children are now orphaned due to AIDS. It is estimated that by the year 2010 in sub-Saharan Africa alone, more than 18 million children will have lost at least one parent to AIDS. Half of all new infections are people under the age of 25, with girls hit harder and younger than boys. UNICEF is also running several programs dedicated to controlling both online and off-line child pornography. Unicef is also trying to criminalize virtual pornography (including adults posing as children, fictional works including underaged characters such as Romeo and Juliet).

Early childhood

Every child must be ensured the best start in life – their future, and indeed the future of their communities, nations and the whole world depends on it.

UNICEF applies a holistic, evidence-based approach to early childhood, including the following principles:

  • Preventive and curative health care including immunization, adequate nutrition, and safe water and basic sanitation must be provided as a sine qua non.

Structure of the organization

The heart of UNICEF's work is in the field, with staff in over 150 countries and territories. More than 120 country offices carry out UNICEF's mission through a unique program of cooperation developed with host governments. Seven regional offices guide their work and provide technical assistance to country offices as needed.

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 UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre

UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, Italy, was established in 1988 to strengthen the research capability of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and to support its advocacy for children worldwide.

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:

  • Generation and communication of strategic and influential knowledge on issues affecting children and the realization of their rights;
  • Knowledge exchange and brokering;
  • Support to UNICEF's advocacy, policy and programme development in support of the Millennium Agenda
  • Securing and strengthening the Centre's institutional and financial basis.

Three interrelated strategies will guide the achievement of these goals:

  • Evidence-based analysis drawing on quantitative and qualitative information, the application of appropriate methodologies, and the development of recommendations to assess and inform advocacy and policy action.
  • Enhanced partnerships with research and policy institutions and development actors, globally and at regional level, in developing and industrialized countries.
  • Communication and leveraging of research findings and recommendations to support policy development and advocacy initiatives through strategic dissemination of studies and contribution to relevant events and fora.

Public perception

UNICEF is the world's leading children's organization. It is the only UN organization concerned only with the well-being of children Over the 60 years of its history it has become a primary reference for governments and NGOs, collecting and disseminating more research on children than any other organization, writing position papers on various aspects of the health and environments of children. UNICEF has also organized worldwide fundraising drives to fund interventions which directly benefit children.

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.

Sponsorship

Recently, UNICEF has begun partnerships with world-class athletes and teams to promote the organization's work and to raise funds.

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.

Race driver Jacques Villeneuve has occasionally placed the UNICEF logo on the #27 Bill Davis Racing pickup truck in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

The ING Renault F1 Team in Formula 1 are also sponsored by UNICEF

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.

Trick-or-Treat UNICEF box

Since 1950 when a group of children in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania donated $17 they received on Halloween to help post-World War II victims, the Trick-or-Treat UNICEF box has become a tradition in North America during the haunting season. These small orange boxes are handed to children at schools and at various locations (such as Hallmark Gold Crown Stores) prior to October 31. To date, the box has collected approximately $91 million dollars (CAD) in Canada and over $132 million (US) in the USA.

Art in All of Us

UNICEF sponsors the Art in All of Us initiative founded and organised by Anthony Asael (Belgium) and Stephanie Rabemiafara (Madagascar). The mission of Art in All of Us is to promote creative cultural exchange throughout the UN listed countries, using universal language of Art. The AiA World Art Book Program of Art in All of Us will present in one book each and every of the 192 UN-listed countries through a single portrait of a resident, a drawing and a poem done by a local child.

See also

References and notes

External links

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