United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF)

The purpose of this memo is to critically summarise the operations of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and its goals for the future. Following the end of World War II in 1946, The United Nations (UN) established a program aimed to provide the basic necessities of life to famine and disease ridden children in Europe[1]. On the 11th of December, 1946, UNICEF was born[2]. UNICEF was created for the purpose of addressing the needs of underprivileged children which include diminishing the prevalence of disease, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS and violence while ensuring all children have access to quality education[3].

Work Conducted by UNICEF

One stated goal of UNICEF is to combat the inordinate number of young child and pregnancy related deaths[4]. A large proportion of these deaths occur due to preventable diseases and illnesses, malnutrition, poor sanitation and a severe lack of medical facilities[5]. In their efforts to minimise the deaths, UNICEF has established successful, uncomplicated and cost effective involvements within problem areas of the world[6]. Some of these contributions include vaccinations, antibiotics, nutritional supplements, insecticide-treated bed nets and the implementation of safer and more hygienic practices[7].

The prominence of HIV and AIDS in underdeveloped countries is another substantial hurdle UNICEF faces[8]. As well as establishing methods of preventing the transmission of HIV, UNICEF also provides protection, treatment and support for children affected by HIV/AIDS[9]. In conjunction with other child protection establishments, UNICEF has instigated social protection schemes to increase exposure to education and health services and aid communities and carers[10].

UNICEF has found the prominence of violence and exploitation of children to be one of the prime crises across the globe[11]. Issues such as unregistered births, child labour, child marriage, sexual exploitation of children, female genital mutilation, violence against children and other human rights violations are highly prevalent and insufficiently recognised and addressed[12]. By providing a protective environment for children and raising awareness of these child abuses, UNICEF hopes to generate responses and preventative measures to counteract these violations of children’s human rights[13].

Another area UNICEF hopes to address is the lack of quality education available to many children[14]. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) article 26, education is a basic human right[15]. Education is the cornerstone of personal and societal development. Implementing the assistance of local, national and international partners, UNICEF works to guarantee every child is entitled to a quality education, regardless of gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic background or personal circumstances[16]. Gender equality is another strong focus as UNICEF works to increase the number of girls with access to education[17]. UNICEF approaches these educational problems with a rights-based attitude with the hope of improving some of societies’ entrenched inequalities[18]. Priorities have been established by UNICEF to overcome the problems, which include equal access, universal primary education, gender quality and female education, post-crisis and emergency education, early childhood development and enhanced educational quality[19]. However, UNICEF understands that its aims for universal education require a long term global commitment[20].

UNICEF’s dominant role is that of working in emergencies and delivering adequate humanitarian assistance to children in need[21]. During wartimes, UNICEF initiates critical interventions to save the lives and protect the rights of vulnerable children[22]. The focus of these interventions is to provide and ascertain emergency healthcare, sufficient food, clean drinking water and sanitation[23]. Post-war restoration of educational institutions assists with child protection and the reinstatement of normal routines[24]. Wartimes often bring about increased female violence, child abduction and gathering of child soldiers. UNICEF works to combat these problems in three predominant ways: prevention, protection, recuperation and reintegration[25].

Criticisms of UNICEF

Despite their humanitarian stance, UNICEF has received criticisms from various groups, governments and individuals for failing to adequately address the problems facing particular groups. Israeli non-governmental organisation NGO Monitor, is highly critical of UNICEF’s involvement with and funding of ‘Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation’ (PYALARA)[26]. A supposed non-political group, NGO Monitor alleges that PYALARA has been dishonest concerning its hidden agenda[27]. PYALARA’s youth newspaper has been reported by NGO Monitor to advocate overt political intentions and indirectly show support of terror attacks on civilians and suicide bombings[28]. UNICEF has a policy of only supporting non-political organisations and has been criticised by NGO Monitor for showing political bias or negligence in their duty to be aware of PYALARA’s true activities[29].

UNICEF has also been disapproved of by the American Life League for the introduction of “family planning” as part of their “maternal and child health services”[30]. With these new services came the distribution of contraceptives by UNICEF to countries suffering overpopulation and poverty[31]. Soon after this controversy, UNICEF reportedly spent vast amounts of funding to initiate sterilisation facilities in countries around the world[32]. Further to these claims, the Catholic Church attacked UNICEF for its promotion of contraceptives, abortion and sterilisation, and display of a suction abortion machine order form on the UNICEF website[33]. In 1996, following the discovery of a sterilising agent in the UNICEF distributed tetanus vaccines in the Philippines, Mexico, Nicaragua, Tanzania, India and Nigeria, the Vatican actually withdrew its annual donation to UNICEF in condemnation of their practices[34].

Sudanese Oxford scholar Bona Malwal and The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) have also spoken out against UNICEF regarding Sudanese slavery. Bona Malwal believes that UNICEF is partly to blame for the continuing slavery in Sudan as they failed to act appropriately[35]. Malwal claims UNICEF has allowed the Sudanese government to escape all denunciation at the annual United Nations Human Rights meetings and turned a blind eye to the outrageous human rights breaches that occurred in Sudan[36]. In failing to acknowledge the slavery problem in Sudan and instead referring to countless ‘abductions’, Malwal holds UNICEF responsible for the hundreds of thousands of unaccounted for women and children[37]. Similarly, UNICEF has faced additional condemnation by the IHEU[38]. The IHEU have criticised UNICEF for delaying the slave rescue action to be undertaken by the Sudanese run Committee for Eradication of Abduction of Women and Children (CEAWAC)[39]. CEAWAC’s proposed operation was fiercely supported by the majority of Sudanese slaves and their families, yet UNICEF didn’t act[40]. UNICEF’s reluctance to call the victims of slavery slaves was another point for disparagement by the IHEU[41].

UNICEF is a humanitarian organisation, directing its efforts in various areas to help combat many of the violations against children that occur across the globe. Focus areas remain in the reduction of disease and malnutrition related deaths, dealing with HIV/AIDS sufferers, preventing the exploitation of children, ensuring equal access to education and providing sufficient support in times of emergency and conflict. However, despite its humanitarian objectives and efforts, UNICEF still receives criticism for some of its decisions and shortcomings.

References

  • International Humanist and Ethical Union (2005) IHEU speaks at UN of plight of Sudanese slaves, available: http://www.iheu.org/node/170 [accessed 15 Oct 2009]
  • Mark, J. (2003) Slavery: Sudanese Scholar Speaks Out [online], available: http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/11093.htm [accessed 15 Oct, 2009]
  • Mosher, S. (2009) UNICEF, WHO Want ‘Alliance’ with Church but Promote Abortion [online], available: http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=33157 [accessed 12 Oct 2009]
  • NGO Monitor (2003) ‘UNICEF Funding Political Activities’, NGO Monitor Analysis [online], 1(5), available: http://www.ngo-monitor.org/editions/v1n05/v1n05-1.htm [accessed 12 Oct 2009]
  • Tignor, L. (2005) The Truth About UNICEF [online], available: http://www.all.org/article.php?id=10105 [accessed 12 Oct 2009]
  • UNICEF (2006) UNICEF’s Role in Emergencies [online], available: http://www.unicef.org/emerg/index_33296.html [accessed 10 Oct 2009]
  • UNICEF (2008) Basic Education and Gender Equality: UNICEF in Action [online], available: http://www.unicef.org/girlseducation/index_action.html [accessed 10 Oct 2009]
  • UNICEF (2008) Child Protection from Violence, Exploitation and Abuse: the Big Picture [online], available: http://www.unicef.org/protection/index_bigpicture.html [accessed 10 Oct 2009]
  • UNICEF (2008) Children and HIV and AIDS: UNICEF in Action [online], available: http://www.unicef.org/aids/index_42838.html [accessed 10 Oct 2009]
  • UNICEF (2008) Partnership for Education and Gender Equality [online], available: http://www.unicef.org/girlseducation/index_44865.html [accessed 10 Oct 2009]
  • UNICEF (2008) Who We Are [online], available: http://www.unicef.org/about/who/index_introduction.html [accessed 10 Oct 2009]
  • UNICEF (2008) Young Child Survival and Development [online], available: http://www.unicef.org/childsurvival/index.html [accessed 10 Oct 2009]
  • UNICEF (2009) Basic Education and Gender Equality [online], available: http://www.unicef.org/girlseducation/index.php [accessed 10 Oct 2009]
  • UNICEF (2009) Child Protection from Violence, Exploitation and Abuse [online], available: http://www.unicef.org/protection/index.html [accessed 10 Oct 2009]
  • United Nations (2009) Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) [online], available: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ [Accessed 14 Oct, 2009]

Bibliography

  1. Brizee, A. (2009) Memo Writing [online], available: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/printable/590/ [accessed 3 Oct 2009]
  2. UNICEF (2008) Who We Are [online], available: http://www.unicef.org/about/who/index_introduction.html [accessed 10 Oct 2009]
  3. ibid
  4. ibid
  5. UNICEF (2008) Young Child Survival and Development [online], available: http://www.unicef.org/childsurvival/index.html [accessed 10 Oct 2009]
  6. ibid
  7. ibid
  8. ibid
  9. UNICEF (2008) Children and HIV and AIDS: UNICEF in Action [online], available: http://www.unicef.org/aids/index_42838.html [accessed 10 Oct 2009]
  10. ibid
  11. ibid
  12. UNICEF (2008) Child Protection from Violence, Exploitation and Abuse: the Big Picture [online], available: http://www.unicef.org/protection/index_bigpicture.html [accessed 10 Oct 2009]
  13. ibid
  14. UNICEF (2009) Child Protection from Violence, Exploitation and Abuse [online], available: http://www.unicef.org/protection/index.html [accessed 10 Oct 2009]
  15. UNICEF (2009) Basic Education and Gender Equality [online], available: http://www.unicef.org/girlseducation/index.php [accessed 10 Oct 2009]
  16. United Nations (2009) Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) [online], available: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/ [accessed 14 Oct 2009]
  17. UNICEF, Basic Education and Gender Equality [online]
  18. ibid
  19. ibid
  20. UNICEF (2008) Basic Education and Gender Equality: UNICEF in Action [online], available: http://www.unicef.org/girlseducation/index_action.html [accessed 10 Oct 2009]
  21. UNICEF (2008) Partnership for Education and Gender Equality [online], available: http://www.unicef.org/girlseducation/index_44865.html [accessed 10 Oct 2009]
  22. UNICEF (2006) UNICEF’s Role in Emergencies [online], available: http://www.unicef.org/emerg/index_33296.html [accessed 10 Oct 2009]
  23. ibid
  24. ibid
  25. ibid
  26. ibid
  27. NGO Monitor. (2003) ‘UNICEF Funding Political Activities’, NGO Monitor Analysis [online], 1(5), available http://www.ngo-monitor.org/editions/v1n05/v1n05-1.htm [accessed 12 Oct 2009]
    NGO Monitor is a Jerusalem based organisation who monitor Middle Eastern NGOs with the aim of prohibiting other NGOs from promoting perceived “ideologically motivated anti-Israel agendas’.
    PYALARA is a student run Palestinian NGO.
  28. ibid
  29. ibid
  30. ibid
  31. Tignor, L. (2005) The Truth About UNICEF [online], available: http://www.all.org/article.php?id=10105 [accessed 12 Oct 2009]
  32. ibid
  33. ibid
  34. Mosher, S. (2009) UNICEF, WHO Want ‘Alliance’ with Church but Promote Abortion [online], available: http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=33157 [accessed 12 Oct 2009]
  35. Tignor, The Truth About UNICEF [online]
  36. Mark, J. (2003), Slavery: Sudanese Scholar Speaks Out [online], available http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/11093.htm [accessed 15 Oct, 2009]
  37. ibid
  38. ibid
  39. International Humanist and Ethical Union, (2005) IHEU speaks at UN of plight of Sudanese slaves, available: http://www.iheu.org/node/170 [accessed 15 Oct 2009]
  40. ibid
  41. ibid
  42. ibid