United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is a United Nations Programme headquartered in New York City, that provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries. It is one of the members of the United Nations Development Group and its Executive Committee.
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 1954, 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.
UNICEF relies on contributions from governments and private donors and UNICEF’s total income for 2008 was $3,372,540,239. Governments contribute two thirds of the organization’s resources; private groups and some 6 million individuals contribute the rest through the National Committees. It is estimated that 91.8% of their revenue is distributed to Program Services. UNICEF’s 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 the Prince of Asturias Award of Concord in 2006.
Most of UNICEF’s work is in the field, with staff in over 190 countries and territories. More than 200 country offices carry out UNICEF’s mission through a program developed with host governments. Seventeen regional offices 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 vaccines, antiretroviral medicines for children and mothers with HIV, nutritional supplements, emergency shelters, educational supplies, among others. A 36-member Executive Board 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.
Following the reaching of term limits by Executive Director of UNICEF Carol Bellamy, former United States Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman became executive director of the organization in May 2005, with an agenda to increase the organization’s focus on the Millennium Development Goals. She was succeeded in May 2010, by Anthony Lake.
UNICEF is an inter-governmental organization and thus is accountable to those governments. UNICEF’s salary and benefits package is based on the United Nations Common System.
On major initiative is Child Friendly Cities Project that includes a number of cities ready to build a local system of good governance committed to fulfilling children’s rights.
State of the World’s Children
UNICEF has published its “State of the World’s children” report since 1979. The annual review of basic indicators on children’s survival and development raises awareness about the importance of monitoring how children fare. In the formulation and thinking on child poverty, Ben-Arieh (2000) identified a shift of focus from survival to well-being since the first State of the World’s Children report by UNICEF in 1979.
- Ben-Arieh, A. (2006). “Measuring and monitoring the well-being of young children around the world”. Background paper prepares for the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2007, UNESCO. Available at: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001474/147444e.pdf