ORIGINS AND BACKGROUND
From a small relief operation created by the UN General Assembly in 1946 to assist Europes children following World War II, the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) has grown into a leading global advocate for protecting and promoting the human rights of children and women. These rights guide its collaborative programmes implemented in 161 countries, areas and territories worldwide.
To help realize childrens rights, the organization works with many partners to meet childrens basic needs, help protect children from abuse and exploitation, and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. These partners include governments, UN organizations, non-governmental organizations, communities, families and children themselves.
UNICEF-assisted programmes involve families in the search for solutions and aim to strengthen the capabilities of families and communities to care for their children. They also provide children with opportunities to participate in decisions affecting their lives, according to their age and maturity.
UNICEF works to ensure that all societys actions pass the litmus test of the best interests of the child, a fundamental tenet of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international human rights treaty ratified by all nations but two. The convention, with its emphasis on non-discrimination and the need to fulfil all rights for all children, provides the ethical framework for UNICEFs work.
The organization also works with partners to end gender bias and violence and to uphold the rights of girls and women as set forth in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. UNICEF supports the full participation of girls and women in their communities and in civic life.
In addition to these two conventions, major international conferences and all relevant UN conventions, a number of critical goals of human progress guide UNICEFs work. For example since 1990, when UNICEF acted as the secretariat for the groundbreaking World Summit for Children, the organization has assisted governments in their efforts to reach the 27 year-2000 goals for childrens survival and development established by summit leaders. In 1998, the organization launched Programme Priorities 1998-2000 to accelerate progress toward achieving these goals.
UNICEF also supports the year 2015 development goals set by the donor countries Development Assistance Committee in 1996.
Each year, the organization publishes a scorecard of efforts made toward a number of these targets in its publication The Progress of Nations. Its other publication, State of the Worlds Children, delves into rights issues crucial to the well-being of children and women. Both reports receive press coverage around the world and are designed to influence policy at the highest levels.
UNICEF assistance to nations to meet development goals and ensure child rights played a major role in successful programmes that have almost eradicated polio from the world; cut child measles deaths by 75% and neonatal tetanus deaths by 25%; freed 12 million children from the risk of mental disability due to iodine deficiency; and placed more children in school than at any time in history.
Cooperation with other UN organizations has been strengthened in recent years, with UNICEF playing a leading role in efforts to set up a common UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) and to use Common Country Assessments to identify needs and programme interventions.
Administration and Resources
UNICEF reports to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and to the General Assembly, but has its own governing body--the Executive Board--and a secretariat. The Executive Director is appointed by the UN Secretary-General in consultation with the UNICEF Executive Board.
This 36-member board meets four times a year to establish policies, review programmes and approve expenditures for programmes of cooperation with governments in developing countries. Its members are elected by ECOSOC for three-year terms and include representatives from major contributing and recipient countries.
With its headquarters in New York, UNICEF works through eight regional offices and 125 country offices worldwide. It also has a research centre in Florence (Italy), a supply operation based in Copenhagen (Denmark) and offices in Tokyo (Japan) and Brussels (Belgium). In 1998, it had nearly 6,000 personnel posts worldwide, 86% of them in the field.
Country offices headed by UNICEF representatives are the key operational points for programming, support and advocacy. They help relevant ministries and institutions conduct situation analyses on the well-being of children and women and pinpoint areas where their rights are not being realized. The offices then work with the government to implement and evaluate programmes of cooperation, often in collaboration with other UN agencies, civil society organizations and communities.
The organizations work is further assisted by 37 National Committees for UNICEF, which raise awareness on childrens rights issues to assist UNICEF in fundraising. UNICEF also benefits from its partnership with 179 Goodwill Ambassadors and celebrity supporters, who lend their time and talent to raise the organizations profile and influence global policy on behalf of children and women.
UNICEF also has accorded a consultative status to 191 international non-governmental organizations.
Most of the organizations income comes from voluntary contributions, nearly two-thirds of which is from government sources. The rest comes from non-governmental, private sector sources and individual contributions. Revenues from greeting cards sales are also now an important source of income.
Total income for 1998 was US$966 million, with 59% allocated to regular resources and the rest to Other Resources. Regular resources are used for UNICEFs country programmes and for programme support and administration. Other resources are allocated to projects approved by the Executive Board as extensions of country programmes and to relief and rehabilitation programmes in emergency situations.
Bolstered by the nearly universal acceptance of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF is making child rights the guiding force of its country programmes. It works with its many partners to establish childrens rights as enduring ethical principles and international standards of behaviour. It advocates in venues ranging from community centres to television shows, and from childrens assemblies to sessions of parliament. The organization advises countries on how to incorporate childrens rights into laws and policies and provides training in rights implementation.
UNICEF also helps governments gather data on health, nutrition and other vital areas to reveal disparities among groups and ensure that the rights of all children and women are protected. This data helps monitor compliance with the convention.
As an example of its varied activities to realize its mandate, UNICEF in 1998 helped restore schooling and other social services in 55 troubled countries; joined the World Health Organization (WHO) in launching the Roll Back Malaria campaign; and assisted polio eradication campaigns in 97 countries, reaching 450 million children under five. In 1999, the organization became a major partner in the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, the worldwide effort to renew support for immunization and introduce new life-saving vaccines, made possible by the generous donation of Bill Gates.
To inspire a deeper sense of cooperation and renewed commitment to progress in the new millennium, UNICEF is spearheading a new global movement for children. This initiative is seeking to build a broad momentum on behalf of children, linking government and civil society organizations, the private sector, special ambassadors and child leaders with the aim of fulfilling the world summit goals for children.
Making a Difference: Three Critical Stages of Life
UNICEF believes that investing in childrens well-being and protecting their rights is the surest way of accelerating human development, building cohesive societies and guaranteeing positive social change. UNICEF supports three outcomes for children:
-- infants start life healthy, and young children are nurtured in a caring environment that enables them to be healthy, alert, emotionally secure, socially adept and ready to learn;
-- all children, including the poorest and most disadvantaged, have access to and complete basic education of good quality; and
-- adolescents have opportunities to fully develop their capabilities in safe and supportive environments and are encouraged to participate in and contribute to their societies.
A Good Start for Children
Scientific evidence indicates that critical opportunities in human development occur early in life, which no society can afford to miss. UNICEF therefore supports programmes that enable families, communities and health centres to provide the care and nurturing children need from the earliest possible time for normal physical, intellectual and emotional development. UNICEF-assisted programmes combine interventions for childrens health and nutrition, early education, healthful and sanitary environments and overall psychological and social well-being. This comprehensive approach is the cornerstone of the Early Childhood Care for Survival, Growth and Development initiative developed by UNICEF and introduced into its programmes in the late 1990s.
Early care begins in the very first hours of life with exclusive breastfeeding and with interventions to ensure a womans good health, nutrition and well-being during pregnancy. By the end of 1998, breastfeeding protection, promotion and support had been adopted by nearly 15,000 hospitals taking part in the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative spearheaded by UNICEF and WHO.
UNICEF works closely with civil society organizations, particularly the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), to assist governments to implement the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. Adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981, the code helps protect parents and health workers from commercial pressures to artificially feed infants. By the end of 1998, 20 countries had enacted laws based on the code as a minimum standard, and 46 had legislation encompassing some of the provisions of the code. IBFAN regularly monitors and reports on levels of code compliance around the world. World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every first week of August through the efforts of a network of civil society organizations (the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action) committed to the goals set by WHO and UNICEF.
Many programmes, such as those in Jordan and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, have begun to help parents improve skills for caring for young children at home. The programmes emphasize health and social and intellectual development, and help fill the vacuum created by lack of preschool facilities in many countries.
The Integrated Management of Childhood Illness, a programme developed by UNICEF and WHO and introduced into 58 developing countries by 1999, upgrades skills of health workers, strengthens health services and improves the care families and communities provide for children. These efforts are focused mainly on reducing the prevalence of five major child killers: respiratory tract infections, diarrhoeal dehydration, measles, malaria and malnutrition. UNICEF works with partners like WHO, the Pan-African Health Organization and CORE, a coalition of 32 international NGOs implementing programmes to improve child health, in this effort and has played a leading role in developing strategies for improving home-based care and care-seeking behaviours in families and communities. The same partners are also involved in the Roll Back Malaria Initiative, which plans to provide 60 million African families with insecticide-treated bednets and promote their use by the year 2005.
The School Years
With 130 million children still out of school, most of them girls, UNICEF and its partners are working to enrol more--giving special attention to girls, working children and young people in remote or marginalized communities. The programmes are also emphasizing better quality education and helping children learn in child-friendly environments. UNICEF-assisted programmes seek to produce better-trained teachers, relevant curricula, lively and participatory learning, encourage the involvement of parents and communities, and to create a safe, secure environment that fosters health, development, creativity, self-esteem and preparedness for life.
Through UNICEF assistance, many schools have become centres for learning about life, offering guidance on health, nutrition, good hygiene and conflict resolution.
UNICEF places special emphasis on educating girls, whose enrolment still lags behind that of boys in many countries largely because of discriminatory attitudes and policies. Thanks in part to UNICEF advocacy, many countries now understand the many social benefits of education: educated women have smaller and healthier families than women with no education.
UNICEF also supports special initiatives such as the Girls Education Programme promoting the development of gender-sensitive classrooms in more than 50 countries. This is done through activities such as teacher training and development of unbiased textbooks and curricula. In West and Central Africa, the African Girls Education Initiative had supported more than 4,200 schools and literacy centres by 1999.
In situations of crisis, UNICEF helps children normalize their lives by going to school, with the long-term goal of strengthening countries education systems. The organization also supplies Edukits, developed by UNICEF and UNESCO, which are locally-assembled teaching materials tailored to community needs. It provides training to the teachers using them. Thousands of such kits have been delivered to children affected by conflict in Afghanistan, Liberia and the Balkan countries.
UNICEF also helps to rebuild schools or set up non-formal alternatives and to provide psychosocial counselling to traumatized children.
Promoting education is central to helping other children at risk as well. UNICEF, for example, views education as a prime defence against the most extreme forms of child labour. In 1999, around 30 countries as diverse as Brazil, India and Thailand launched UNICEF-assisted projects to provide schooling to millions of children working full time.
Adolescents require abundant support from families, communities and governments to unleash their enormous positive potential. UNICEF works with partners to help adolescents realize their rights to information, education, health services, safe and supportive environments and opportunities to participate in community life. The programmes also support adolescents at risk because of high school dropout rates, early marriage and child-bearing, violence, drug addiction, HIV/AIDS or alienation from community and civic life.
Through school and community programmes, adolescents learn skills for making sound decisions and avoiding unsafe sex, drug-taking, smoking and other high-risk behaviour. Often, these programmes are linked to efforts to provide young people with information and youth-friendly health services, such as Zimbabwes In-school AIDS and Life Skills Education Project.
Such efforts have become crucial to stem the tide of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which hits young people under 25 the hardest.
Protecting the Rights of Children in Crisis
HIV/AIDS has spawned a new protection challenge to UNICEF: safeguarding the rights of orphans and other children affected by the disease. The organization and its partners are working to shore up the capacity of families and communities to care for the more than eight million children below the age of 15 whose mothers or both parents have died from AIDS, 90% of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
Efforts to protect the rights of children and women in situations of armed conflict have also greatly escalated. In countries such as Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone, UNICEF helped demobilize and reintegrate child soldiers into community life. UNICEF is also the lead agency promoting landmine awareness and helping victims obtain therapy and prosthetics. In camps for refugees and the internally displaced, the organization provides relief supplies, helps set up schooling and recreation places for children, and assists women to start or continue breastfeeding.
UNICEFs advocacy work for protection of the neutrality and rights of civilians in conflict zones has led to several important ceasefires and other agreements allowing the organization and its partners to immunize children and provide other humanitarian assistance.
Creating an Environment Supportive of Children and Women
Progress in all the areas outlined above will occur only when conducive environments are created by nations, communities and families. UNICEF and its partners contribute to the effort through calls for significant changes in the allocation of resources and for greater political will in tackling problems such as armed conflicts, HIV/AIDS, discrimination and violence, poverty and the debt burden.
To help channel resources to the poor, for example, UNICEF plays a lead role in promoting the global 20/20 Initiative, which encourages donor governments to earmark 20% of aid and developing countries to commit an equal portion of their budgets to basic health care, primary education and low-cost water and sanitation.
Many developing countries are unable to invest enough in these basic services because of the heavy debt burden they bear. Among measures UNICEF supports to reduce their burden is the Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative developed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and the subsequent Cologne Reforms advocating faster relief tied to debtor nations plans for reducing poverty.
Collaboration with Civil Society Organizations
UNICEFs rights-based approach to programming and the new global movement for children require that it expand its circle of global, regional and national partners. This should enhance its outreach and programme effectiveness, support the principle of citizen participation in matters of their concern and help make the respect for and realization of human rights a universally accepted principle.
Partnerships with CSOs enable UNICEF to secure advice, programme collaboration and documentation from civil society organizations and allow such organizations, which represent important sections of public opinion, to express views of their members at the policy-making level through the UNICEF Executive Board.
Global Level Collaboration
Article 71 of the United Nations Charter grants international non-governmental organizations Consultative Status to the United Nations and its specialized agencies. Currently, 191 international NGOs have Consultative Status with UNICEF. In addition to interacting with the UNICEF secretariat, Consultative Status enables CSOs to present their views to the UNICEF Executive Board. This can be done in three ways.
Participation in Meetings
Any NGO/CSO in Consultative Status with UNICEF can participate in sessions of the Executive Board in accordance with Article 50, para. 2 and Annex to the rules of the Executive Board on AParticipation of Non-Members of the UNICEF Board Meetings, Section 2 c) specifically. CSOs may participate in deliberations of the board without the right to vote provided they have communicated their intent at least seven days prior to the start of the board session.
Organizations maintaining consultative status with UNICEF may, under the authority of their governing body and with the approval of the office of the Secretary of Executive Board, submit written statements to the Executive Board.
By prior arrangement with the President of the Executive Board, CSOs with Consultative Status may be called upon to address the board. The UNICEF Office of the Secretary of the Executive Board will continue to liaise with the president of the board on matters of CSOs participation at board meetings, including speaking arrangements.
A number of the 191 international NGOs have constituted themselves into the NGO Committee on UNICEF. This committee has been in existence for almost 40 years and currently has 131 members. It aims to improve the effectiveness and impact of work on childrens issues through increased sharing of expertise, experiences of best practice, better coordination of human, organizational and financial resources, and as a forum for more effective interface between UNICEF and members of the NGO committee. The committee is governed by a structured board, with a president and a secretariat. The committee interacts very closely with the UNICEF secretariat, mainly through its working groups on specific issues.
In 1996 the Economic and Social Council passed ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31, which stipulates that national and regional organizations also may be granted Consultative Status, and encourages the involvement of CSOs from all regions of the world to achieve a just, balanced and effective partnership. This resolution has provided UNICEF with an opportunity to review its relations with CSOs and NGOs at the global level and to review and revise its consultative arrangements. A new set of provisions have been developed to give effect to the resolution.
The provisions are designed to realize the aims of UNICEF by securing the broadest possible involvement from appropriate civil society organizations in the preparation of policies and implementation of programmes, and thus increase collaboration toward the protection, respect, facilitation and fulfilment of childrens rights. In addition, the provisions should promote the emergence and empowerment of new organizations that are representative of civil society in those regions of the world where such organizations, for historical, cultural or geographical reasons, are isolated or weak, and help to integrate such organizations into the network of international cooperation.
Regional, National, and Sub-National Level Collaboration
UNICEF field offices collaborate with a wide variety of civil society organizations on virtually every activity at the regional and country level. Such collaboration is mostly informal, but may when required be formalized through Memorandum of Understanding or Project Co-operation Agreements. Civil society organizations are often contracted by UNICEF to fulfil specified functions. UNICEF aims to associate CSOs as closely and regularly as possible with the various stages of the Common Country Assessment (CCA) and the Country Programme Process (CPP). CSOs are often invited by UNICEF to send observers or participants to its meetings on matters within their competence, or forward their views in writing.
Margaret Kyenkya-Isabirye, Senior Advisor, Programme Partnerships, Gender, Partnership and Participation Section, Programme Division, UNICEF, 3 UN Plaza, New York NY 10017, United States, telephone +1-212/824 6570, fax +1-212/824 6484, e-mail <email@example.com>, website (www.unicef.org).