The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, usually referred to by the acronym UNICEF, is the international organization operating under the auspices of the United Nations. Since the beginning of its existence, the United Nations (UN) has endowed constituent agencies to deal with issues related to children and meeting their needs. UNICEF's goals are constantly supplemented and amended, though its main activities have for a long time remained largely unchanged. These include the reduction of children mortality of children under 5 by one-third, the reduction of maternal mortality, and providing primary education to children in developing countries. To achieve these and other goals, more than 180 goodwill ambassadors help the organization. The chief governing body of the UNICEF is the Executive Board, which is elected by the UN Economic and Social Council for 3 years. The Executive Council meets annually. The current activities of the UNICEF are directed by Secretariat and the Executive Director.
The idea regarding the creation of the Children's Fund was first put forth in 1940, but not finally established until after World War 2 on the 11th of December, 1946, by a decision of the new United Nations General Assembly. It was designed as an emergency organization to help children who have suffered during the Second World War, to enable assistance to all needy children living in temporary refugee camps or completely ruined cities in the postwar period. An estimated number was approximately twenty million children and it has been an issue impossible to ignore. Initially, it was proposed that the fund would be temporary, but in 1953, the UN expanded the range of activities of the organization and extended the term of its powers indefinitely. The Fund received its current name of preserving the original abbreviations as UNICEF.
A relatively new initiative works towards the development of the concept of cities friendly to children. The frameworks of the program conceptualize a city friendlier for children in aspects of the organization of family life, as well as annual special programs for the development of children's leisure and creativity. A feature of this initiative is that both children and young people should be involved in discussions and decision-making process that directly affects their interests. Over 12 years of its existence, the concept of a children-friendly city has become implemented in many countries, including France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Brazil, Sweden, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and Belarus.
In addition to truly challenging international projects, UNICEF had to deal with bureaucratic problems in issues of supplying essential goods in developing countries. Some communities across many countries are opposing the Fund's ideas, stating that those stand against national or religious norms in views on child development. The Orthodox Church has condemned the publication of the organization's official position that the UNICEF is supporting the recognition of gay marriage, as set forth in the document "Elimination of discrimination against parents and children on grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender identity." The Vatican from time to time stops donations for the development of the UNICEF because the American League of Life and other organizations accused that UNICEF has used part of this money to fund abortions and sterilizations.
Modern Significance and Legacy
Over the second half of the last century, the UNICEF efforts have been increasingly oriented towards a long-term program aimed at improving the health and nutrition of children in developing countries. Given these changes, UNICEF began to act as a permanent UN body, with headquarters in New York City in the U.S. state of New York. Changes were made to the name of the organization, the acronym UNICEF was decided to be kept as it was, because by that time it has become widely known in all continents, and only two letters, initially referring to an extreme emergency, were dismissed from the original name. Nowadays UNICEF performs its duties in war zones, conflict territories and in a midst of natural and man-made disasters. In 1965, UNICEF received the Nobel Peace Prize. The UNICEF is a world leader in providing vaccine safety, thus covers about 40% of the demand for children's vaccines. It is also one of the founders of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI). The UNICEF is also one of the main providers of the UN humanitarian assistance.
UNICEF's strategic plans for the first two decades of the 21st Century state that the Organization will continue to prioritize:
- Ensuring the survival and normal development of premature babies.
- Early education and gender equality.
- Guard children against HIV (AIDS) infection.
- Assist in the prevention of child abuse, discrimination, or exploitation.
- Distribute policies and create partnerships for children's rights protection.