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United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

UNICEFI. Core Areas

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was created in 1946 to provide aid to European children affected by World War II. In 1953 it became a permanent part of the UN, and the UN General Assembly extended UNICEF’s mandate indefinitely.

Milestones in the history of the UNICEF include the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). The latter entered into force in September 1990 and became the most widely accepted human rights treaty in the history of the UN. UNICEF is led by an Executive Director, Ms. Ann M. Veneman.

The 1990 World Summit for Children in New York set ten-year goals for children’s health, nutrition and education. The General Assembly Special Session on Children, convened in New York in 2002, reviewed progress made since the World Summit for Children and reaffirmed global commitment to children’s rights. It was the first Session devoted exclusively to children and also the first to include them as official delegates. The goals of the “World Fit for Children” Plan of Action agreed upon during the Special Session include protection against abuse, exploitation and violence, and the promotion of healthy lives for children.

Today UNICEF’s work covers a wide range of child-related issues. Priorities include immunization, education, early childhood development, child protection, and HIV/AIDS.

II. Engagement with External Actors

To achieve its goals, UNICEF seeks engagement and partnerships with many different actors, including eminent and ordinary individuals, civil society organizations, voluntary agencies, philanthropic foundations, trade unions, faithbased organizations, academic and research institutions, and children and young people.

Civil Society

Civil society organizations are closely involved in the work of UNICEF at the country level, but they are also consulted in the formulation of policy at headquarters. Currently, UNICEF has formal agreements with hundreds of NGOs and individual leaders in 160 countries around the world, ranging from large networks, such as the Save the Children Alliance, to village water communities.

UNICEF enters into various kinds of formal agreements depending on the nature of the collaboration. For instance, at the country level, it may sign a Project Cooperation Agreement with a community-based NGO. At the regional level, it may sign a Joint Programme of Work with an inter-faith network of organizations and individuals. At the global level, it negotiates Memoranda of Understandings with worldwide actors, like the World Organization of the Scouting Movement or the International Pediatrics Association.

Each of these types of agreements has a set of criteria by which UNICEF identifies suitable partners. In all cases, the organizations must be child-rights oriented and fiscally sound. In some cases further strengthening those very capacities is the objective of the collaboration.

In order to be in consultative status with UNICEF, an organization must first be in consultative status with ECOSOC. The NGO Committee on UNICEF1, with a membership of more than 60 organizations, is a long-standing partner of UNICEF, and for over 50 years, it has helped to cultivate and strengthen partnerships with NGOs.2 The Committee participates in the meetings of the UNICEF Executive Board. Its roles and objectives are outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding with UNICEF. The Standing Group of the National Committees for UNICEF has welcomed the cooperation with the NGO Committee to promote the Convention on the Rights of the Child in industrialized countries and has encouraged a continued tripartite relationship among the NGO Committee, the UNICEF Office of Public Partnerships (OPP) and the Standing Group.

NGO participation during the 2002 Special Session on Children was unprecedented in a number of ways. First, in record attendance for a child rights event, more than 1,700 NGO representatives from 117 countries and from 700 NGOs took part. This was a vast improvement over the number of NGOs attending the first, second and third Preparatory Committee meetings to the Special Session. Second, the NGO contingent included not only those accredited by the ECOSOC, but also representatives of NGOs who are partners with UNICEF at the global and national level.

Another highlight of NGO activity was the involvement of some 250 children and young people who served as NGO delegates to the Children’s Forum and the Special Session. A large number of NGOs had been involved in the Special Session since its inception, participating in both national and regional consultations and other events that took place prior to the Session. NGO views strongly influenced the outcome document, which was carefully crafted to take account of the contributions of NGOs at the national, regional and international levels.


UNICEF is engaging with parliamentarians on an increasing basis to urge legislators from around the world to do more to protect the health and well-being of children. For instance, UNICEF has a handbook for parliamentarians on child protection (www.unicef.org/publications/...)

Private Sector

UNICEF maintains a number of partnerships with the private sector to immunize, feed and educate children across the world. UNICEF has forged alliances with the business community for more than fifty years in order to help improve children’s lives in a principled and effective manner that is beneficial to everyone. Alliances are made with those in the business community whose behaviour demonstrates a willingness to exercise corporate social responsibility and a commitment to UNICEF’s mandate and core values.

The business community can provide support, directly and indirectly, to UNICEF’s work through programmatic alliances, advocacy, fundraising support, or in-kind contributions. Ways to collaborate include innovative partnerships; strategic philanthropic initiatives; global, regional and local cause-marketing initiatives; and employee-driven programmes. Corporations can also provide research and development assistance; technical knowledge; access to logistic networks; and extensive communications channels. UNICEF’s Guidelines and Manual for Working with the Business Community3 outline its guiding principles and eligibility criteria.

Extent of Collaboration

Below are examples of private sector collaboration undertaken by UNICEF.

Change for Good®
This initiative is a partnership between UNICEF and several international airline carriers, including oneworld alliance airlines, designed to convert travellers’ unused foreign currency into materials and services for the world’s neediest children, and to communicate UNICEF’s message to a target audience. Since 1987, the campaign has raised over US$70 million in over 50 countries.

Check Out for Children™
Launched in Europe in 1995, Check Out for Children™ encourages guests of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide to make a US$1 donation to UNICEF as they check out. Since its launch the initiative has raised more than US$16 million. The money raised is used to support UNICEF’s immunization work; for each US$1 million raised, more than 55,000 children can be immunized against the six major childhood diseases. Following the programme’s success in Europe, Check Out for Children™ was launched in Starwood Hotel & Resorts Asia Pacific in 1996, and hotels in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America joined the programme in 1997.

In July 2004, UNICEF announced a partnership with the global fashion company H&M to provide a fund of US$1.5 million for girls’ education programmes worldwide and HIV/AIDS prevention programmes in Cambodia. Thousands of adolescents in Cambodia will receive HIV/AIDS awareness training, a toll-free hotline for HIV/AIDS counselling and information will be established, 75 youth club associations will be started, and 2,500 teachers will receive HIV/AIDS prevention training.

In 2003, IKEA introduced the two-year “Brum” Teddy Bear project whereby two euros from the sale of each bear in 22 countries were donated to UNICEF’s “Right to Play” projects in Angola and Uganda. The IKEA BRÜM Bear soft toy promotion raised US$2.2 million In Angola, 80,000 street children gained basic learning opportunities through play; and in Uganda, 55,000 children in displacement camps were given tools to play; 38,000 children gained access to day care centres and 200 children were reunited with their families. Following the successful two-year BRÜM Bear campaign, IKEA launched its annual holiday soft toy campaign “€1 is a fortune!” in 2005. One euro from every soft toy that IKEA Group sells during the holiday season in its 258 stores worldwide goes to projects aimed to improve children’s education, health and protection. In 2008, the campaign generated more than US$ 5.2 million.

III. Organizational Resources

Focal Point

Name: Ms. Liza Barrie
Title: Deputy Director, Office of Public Partnerships
Address: Three UN Plaza, New York NY 10017, USA
Telephone: +1-212-326-7593
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

IV. Information Resources

* UNICEF website
* Information on partnerships
* The NGO Committee on UNICEF
* Guidelines and Manual for Working with the Business Community
* Change for Good®
* Check Out for Children

The UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) is an inter-agency programme of the United Nations mandated to develop constructive relations between the UN and civil society organizations.


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