Social Science - Other

The History of UNICEF

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People have seen children walking their trick-or-treat routes, carrying a little carton to help those in need.  They may have dropped a few coins into the container with the word “UNICEF” wrapped around to hide the advertisements on the side of the milk carton beneath.  As you drop the candy into the bags of the costumed group on your doorstep and coins in the carton, did you fully understand who you were giving to?

UNICEF, or “United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund” was founded by the United Nations through a vote in the aftermath of World War II.  The funding was established to help those children in need, the small children living in countries devastated by the destruction of war.

On December 11, 1946, UNICEF was launched after the food and medical crisis of the 1940s.  UNICEF marched on, helping those children in troubled nations for many years.  In the ‘70s, the role UNICEF played was intensified.  The group became the voice of children and helps take a stand to ensure their rights.

In the 1980s, UNICEF helped the United Nation’s Commission on Human rights in bringing to fruition the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  After an introduction to the United Nation’s General Assembly in 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child shined through as the most widely accepted human rights treaty in the history of the world.  UNICEF was the group behind the enforcement of the treaty.

Out of 184 states members of the UN, only two countries did not ratify the treaty – Somalia and the United States.  Somalia’s ratification is without saying, as they have no current government, which creates an impossible means to ratify the treaty.  The United States, one of the original signatories of the convention, did not ratify the treaty due to the worry of the impact on national sovereignty and the parent-child relationship.

In 1946, after WWII, European children were stricken with famine and disease and UNICEF, after their creation, was there to give food, clothing and health care to them.  UNICEF became a permanent section of the United Nations.  UNICEF at this time, began a global campaign against a disfiguring disease that affected millions of kids called yaws.  The disease can be cured with a routine dose of penicillin, but in many countries the medication was unavailable and costly.  The campaign was successful. 

Danny Kaye, a well-known actor in 1954, was “Ambassador at Large”.  He created a film, “Assignment Children” about all of his work in Asia and it was viewed by more than 100 million people.

In 1959, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted by the UN General Assembly.  This treaty defined the rights of children and gave them the right to protection, education, health care, shelter and good nutrition.

After more than ten years of focus on children’s health issues, UNICEF expanded interests to address all needs of children.  This began a world-wide effort to give children education, beginning with teacher training and new classroom equipment in newly independent countries.

UNICEF was awarded the 1965 Nobel Peace Prize for the promotion of brotherhood among nations.  The International Year of the Child was created in 1979 and was celebrated around the world.  People and organizations reaffirmed their commitment to the rights of children.

The World Health Assembly adopted the International Code of Marketing of Breast milk Substitutes to encourage breastfeeding.  In doing this, they geared the world toward diminishing the threats to infant illnesses.

The group launched a drive to save the lives of kids in the millions each year in a Child Survival and Development Revolution.  The revolution was based on four low-cost, easy techniques that included growth monitoring, oral rehydration therapy, breastfeeding and immunization. 

The landmark UNICEF study came through a study on Adjustment with a Human Face, which prompted a world debate on how to protect women and kids from the malign effects of the economic adjustments and reforms that are taken to reduce the national debt in poorer countries.

In 1989, a Convention on the Rights of the Child treaty was adopted by the UN General Assembly, introducing itself in September of 1990.  It is the most widely and quickly accepted human rights treaty in history.

A world summit for children included heads of State and Government officials held at the United Nations in New York.  This summit produced a 10 year goal set for children’s health, nutrition and education. 

The United Nations Security Council debates on the subject of the strength of international concern of the effects of war on children.

In 2001, the “Say Yes for Children” campaign was launched in a global movement, asking each citizen of every nation to change the world for their children.  Millions of children and adults around the world began pledging their support in the critical actions it would take to improve children’s lives. 

A special session of the UN General Assembly gathered to review the progress since the World Summit for Children in 1990 and to re-energize the idea of commitment toward children’s rights.  It was the first session devoted to children and the first to include them as official delegates.

More about this author: Vicki Perry

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