Know all you need to know about the UNICEF. You will get all the information about It’s history, purpose, its significance in India and more …


In the aftermath of World War II, the General Assembly of the United Nations votes to establish the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), an organization to help provide relief and support to children living in countries devastated by the war.

After the food and medical crisis of the late 1940s passed, UNICEF continued its role as a relief organization for the children of troubled nations and during the 1970s grew into a vocal advocate of children’s rights. In 1953 the UN general assembly extended UNICEF’s mandate indefinitely. During the 1980s, UNICEF assisted the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in the drafting of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. After its introduction to the U.N. General Assembly in 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) became the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history, and UNICEF played a key role in ensuring its enforcement.

Nineteen years after its founding, UNICEF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on 26 October 1965 for “fulfilling the condition of Nobel’s will, the promotion of brotherhood among the nations“ and emerging on the world stage as a “a peace-factor of great importance.”


UNICEF is governed by an Executive Board consisting of 36 members that are elected to terms of three years by United Nations’ Economic and Social Council. Each region that UNICEF serves is allocated a number of seats on the Executive Board, so all regions are represented. UNICEF is headquartered in New York City in the United States. There are also 36 national committees across the globe, which are nongovernmental organizations that help promote the rights of children and fundraise.

While UNICEF is headquartered in the United States, it is active in at least 190 countries around the world. Its activities are divided by region and include Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, East Asia and the Pacific, Eastern and Southern Africa, Latin America and Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, West and Central Africa. A regional office is located within each region.


According to UNICEF’s statement, ‘UNICEF is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs, and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential.’

However, we can divide UNICEF’s activities into 4 broad areas.

  • Protection of children from violence, exploitation and abusive situations. Issues of concern including child labor, child marriage, child recruitment into military, child trafficking, female genital mutilation, landmines, and sexual violence.
  • End preventable deaths and developmental problems of children through healthcare, nutrition, water and sanitation programs.
  • Support basic education and gender equality, including early education, enhancing the primary and secondary education quality, and ensuring equitable access to nutrition for both girls and boys.
  • Provide humanitarian aid during crisis and emergencies with a focus on saving the lives and protecting the rights of children suffering through natural disasters, such as tsunamis, and man made disasters such as war.

UNICEF in India:

  • UNICEF has been working in India since 1949. The largest UN organization in the country, UNICEF is fully committed to working with the Government of India to ensure that each child born in this vast and complex country gets the best start in life, thrives and develops to his/her full potential.
  • In the latest UNICEF annual report released, states that through the partnership led by the Government of India (GoI), the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Rotary International, the Government of Japan, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention India has been officially declared as ‘Polio Free Nation’ by the World Health Organistaion.
  • UNICEF has also partnered the Government of India in the ambitious Swachh bharat abhiyan with the aim of ‘Clean India’ by October 2019.
  • UNICEF India developed child friendly schools and systems guiding principles to support all states in acceleration and implementation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE), with a renewed focus on learning outcomes and inclusion. UNICEF India also collaborated with the Ministry of Human Resource Development to widely disseminate national learning achievement data to improve teaching and learning practices.
  • In 2014, UNICEF India’s supplies and services totalled US$103,158,552 including procurement services, 70 per cent more than 2013. Institutional contracts and services represented 92 per cent while off-shore amounted to 1 per cent of total UNICEF India procurement of US$44,736,119 (excluding procurement services).

On going concerns/weakness:

Looking across the various source documents, UNICEF appears to be constrained by a number of continuing institutional weaknesses relating to:

  • Self-Image and Partnership:
    In 1992, the multi-donor evaluation found that “New York HQ and country offices are very concerned that UNICEF retains its operational independence and access to its own sources of financing.” Since then UNICEF has become far more active in, and sometimes the leader of, inter-agency processes, in which UNICEF now sees itself as a key player. Yet the image of UNICEF as an agency that ‘keeps its distance’ prevails.
  • Partnership:
    There has been a rapid diversification and expansion of partnerships with civil society. However, from the earliest to the most recent review, the documents indicate that UNICEF priorities and strategies for partnerships are limiting the scope for partnership
  • Criticising Government:
    While UNICEF’s close strong relationships with government departments is praised, the evaluations and reviews contain repeat references to UNICEF being unwilling to tackle government partners on poor policy and practice with regard to children, including a reluctance to confront abuses of children’s rights.
  • Bureaucracy and Complexity:
    UNICEF is seen, and sees itself, as overly bureaucratic. The reviews and evaluations indicate that staff resources (i.e. time plus skill), perhaps its most precious asset, are being wasted on overly complex internal processes. The documents do not reveal any concerted organisational push to deal with this, even though simplification and reduction of transaction costs are themes of UN reform.
  • Results-based management:
    Programming is becoming more results-oriented but this is far from managing by results, whereby financial resources are directed to initiatives proven to work and where the costs and benefits are known. Information systems do not yet yield information on results. Weaknesses in RBM are compounded by a lack of risk analysis and cost-assessment of how to make programmes sustainable. Management by inputs is still the dominant management model.
  • Reporting:
    Business information solutions have greatly improved but still do not focus adequately on results and are not easily aligned with donor reporting requirements.
  • Accountability:
    Accountability is hampered by a weak performance management regime. Managers are not yet accountable for results or being rewarded for achieving them. The documents do not show signs of the major culture shift that would be required to improve accountability. They do indicate that UNICEF is not the only UN agency affected by a more general UN malaise with regard to management responsibility for results.
  • Human Resources:
    Several areas of human resource management remain a major concern, including recruitment, career development, policy towards national staff, gender balance and staff burn-out, amongst others.

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