The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) was created by the United Nations General Assembly in 1946 to help children after World War II in Europe. As in many postwar situations affecting civilians, immediate needs included basic needs for survival such as health care, food, and shelter. Over the years, UNICEF's importance in these areas of welfare remains, but the organization has significantly broadened in scope in subsequent decades. In partnership with national governments, nongovernmental organizations, and other United Nations agencies, UNICEF monitors, assists, and facilitates state welfare provision, and is a powerful force for the protection of children's interests, including health and education, as well as those aspects of children's lives that might otherwise be overlooked such as spiritual or religious and cultural identity.
In 1953, UNICEF became a formal part of the United Nations system, with its humanitarian focus on children extended from Europe to the developing world. Its name was shortened to the United Nations Children's Fund, but the acronym UNICEF was somehow retained.
Based in New York City, UNICEF (www.unicef .org) defines its mission as "Changing the world with children," emphasizing both that children are citizens, and therefore partners in the struggle for the fulfillment of their basic human rights. According to its selfdefined mission, "UNICEF helps children get the care and stimulation they need in the early years of life and encourages families to educate girls as well as boys. It strives to reduce childhood death and illness and to protect children in the midst of war and natural disaster. UNICEF supports young people, wherever they are, in making informed decisions about their own lives, and strives to build a world in which all children live in dignity and security. Working with national governments, NGOs, other UN agencies and privatesector partners, UNICEF protects children and their rights by providing services and supplies and by helping shape policy agendas and budgets in the best interests of children." The timeline summarized below indicates how this mission has developed since 1946.
1946: Food to Europe
After World War II, children in Europe faced famine and disease. UNICEF was created by the UN to provide emergency aid.
1950: For all the world's children
As Europe recovers after the war, some countries believe that UNICEF's job is over, but the United Nations General Assembly extends UNICEF's task to include working with children and families throughout the developing world.
1953: UNICEF becomes permanent part of the United Nations
The beginning of UNICEF's international campaign against yaws, a disfiguring disease affecting millions of children that could be cured with penicillin.
1959: Rights of the child
The UN General Assembly adopts the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, focusing on children's rights to education, health care, and good nutrition.
In the newly independent African countries, UNICEF supports teacher training and supplies classroom equipment. By 1965, education accounts for 43% of UNICEF's assistance to Africa.
1965: Nobel Peace Prize
UNICEF is awarded the 1965 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, "for the promotion of brotherhood among nations."
1979: International Year of the Child
During this year, marked by celebrations around the world, people and organizations reaffirm their commitment to children's rights.
1981: Breastfeeding Code Approved
The World Health Assembly adopts the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes to stop a decline in breastfeeding.
1983: Child Survival and Development Revolution
UNICEF launches drive to save the lives of millions of children each year through programs that control dehydration, immunize children, and support breastfeeding and good nutrition.
1989: Convention on the Rights of the Child
The Convention is adopted by the UN General Assembly. It enters into force in September 1990. It becomes the most widely accepted human rights treaty in history.
1990: World Summit for Children
An unprecedented summit of heads of state and government at the United Nations in New York City sets 10-year goals for children's health, nutrition, and education.
1996: Children and conflict
Report of the expert of the secretary-general, Graca Machel: "The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children," a study supported by UNICEF.
1998: United Nations Security Council debates children and conflict
The Council's first open debate on the subject reflects the magnitude of international concern for the impact of war on children.