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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 Citymarker, UNICEF provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries.

UNICEF relies on contributions from governments and private donors and UNICEF's total income for 2006 was $2,781,000,000. Governments contribute two thirds of the organization's resources; private groups and some 6 million individuals contribute the rest through the National Committees. 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.

Structure of the organization and staff

The heart 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 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 Copenhagenmarker 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. 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.

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.

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 National Committees

There are National Committees in 36 industrialized countries worldwide, each established as an independent local non-governmental organization. The National Committees serve as the public face and dedicated voice of UNICEF, raising funds from the private sector, promoting children’s rights, and securing worldwide visibility for children threatened by poverty, disasters, armed conflict, abuse and exploitation.

UNICEF is funded exclusively by voluntary contributions, and the National Committees collectively raise around one-third of UNICEF's annual income. This comes through contributions from corporations, civil society organizations and more than 6 million individual donors worldwide. They also rally many different partners – including the media, national and local government officials, NGOs, specialists such as doctors and lawyers, corporations, schools, young people and the general public – on issues related to children’s rights.

(see List of UNICEF National Committees)

Promotion and fundraising

In the United Statesmarker, Canadamarker 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 on Halloween night, sometimes instead of candy. UNICEF is present in 190 countries and territories around the world. UNICEF designated 1979 as the "Year of the Child", and many celebrities including David Gordon, David Essex, Alun Davies and Cat Stevens gave a performance at a benefit concert celebrating the Year of the Child Concert in December 1979. 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.

In 2009, the British retailer Tescomarker used “Change for Good” as advertising, which is trade marked by Unicef for charity usage but is not trademarked for commercial or retail use which prompted the agency to say "it is the first time in Unicef’s history that a commercial entity has purposely set out to capitalise on one of our campaigns and subsequently damage an income stream which several of our programmes for children are dependent on”.They went on to call on the public “who have children’s welfare at heart, to consider carefully who they support when making consumer choices”.


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 Catalanmarker association football 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 Swedishmarker 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 Teammarker in Formula One are also sponsored by UNICEF.

UNICEF recently announced a landmark partnership with Scotland's 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 Philadelphiamarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, 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 31 October. To date, the box has collected approximately $91 million (CAD) in Canada and over $132 million (USD) in the USA.

Art in All of Us

UNICEF sponsors the Art in All of Us initiative founded and organised by Anthony Asael (Belgiummarker) and Stephanie Rabemiafara (Madagascarmarker). 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.

Corporate Partnership

To raise money to support its Education and Literacy Programmes, UNICEF works together with companies all over the world – encompassing international as well as small- and medium-sized businesses. Since 2005, the organization is being supported by Montblanc, working closely together to help the world’s children getting better access to education.

Public criticism

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 Sudanmarker 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) .

UNICEF has also been criticised for having political bias by NGO Monitor, an Israelimarker 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 adoption from Guatemalamarker. The country has ratified the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption of 29 May 1993 with effect from 1 January 2008. UNICEF has been criticised by some interested parties for 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.

The UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre

UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre in Florencemarker, Italymarker, 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.

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