The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) was established by the United Nations General Assembly on December 11, 1946. In 1953, its name was shortened to the United Nations Children's Fund, but is still known by its popular acronym. Headquartered in New York City, UNICEF provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries. A voluntarily funded agency, UNICEF relies on contributions from governments and private donors. Its programs emphasize developing community-level services to promote the health and well-being of children. UNICEF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965.
The current Executive Director of UNICEF Carol Bellamy has resigned. She will be replaced by Ann Veneman in May 2005.
Unicef is currently focused on 5 primary priorities: Girls education, Immunization plus, Child protection, HIV/AIDS, and Early childhood. Other priorities include child survival, the child in the family, and sports for development.
How they work to improve the status of their priorities is through 14 methods ranging from direct and legal interventions, to education and beyond to research and census data collection.
Education is a proven intervention for improving the lives of all people, including children. Educating young women yields spectacular benefits for the current and future generations, and specifically affects a range of Unicef priorities including child survival, child in family, immunization, and child protection.
- UNICEF’s aim is to get more girls into school, ensure that they stay in school and that they are equipped with the basic tools they need to succeed in later life. As part of its on-going efforts to ensure every girl and boy their right to an education, UNICEF’s acceleration strategy is speeding progress in girls’ enrolment in 25 selected countries during the 2002-2005 period.
Immunization is a direct intervention, a method which has made great improvements in the health of children world-wide over the past 20 years. But every year more than 2 million children die from diseases that could have been prevented by inexpensive vaccines .
The plus in the program is the additional interventions made possible during interventions. Ranging from client education to nutritional supplements to insecticide-treated mosquito netting, these life-saving services make immunization programs a powerful tool for child health.
Every day children are forced to be soldiers, prostitutes, sweatshop workers, servants. They are abused, exploited, and the subject of violence and the outcomes are uneducated, unhealthy, and impoverished children. UNICEF works in a variety of ways to provide protection and support, from child's rights advocacy to child soldier demobilization programs, working with individuals, civic groups, governments, and the private sector to bring about positive change.
14 million children are now orphaned due to AIDS. Half of all new infections are people under the age of 25, with girls being hit harder and younger than boys. Working to protect and support orphaned children, to prevent parent-child transmission, and to give young people gender-sensitive and youth-friendly services, UNICEF also advocates for a protective familial, social and legal environment .
- Every child must be ensured the best start in life – their future, and indeed the future of their communities, nations and the whole world depends on it. 
UNICEF applies an holistic, evidence-based approach to Early childhood, including the following principles:
- Preventive and curative health care including immunization, adequate nutrition, and safe water and basic sanitation must be provided for children, their caregivers, and their communities.
- Children must have birth registration, protection from abuse and neglect, and be provided with love and psycho-social care as well as support for early education.
- Girls and women, especially, should have good nutrition and health care, education, family support, and their rights must be respected. They need to be informed of the health and survival risks, to themselves and their babies, regarding early repeat pregnancy, as well as breast feeding. The health and survival of mothers is directly related to the health and survival of their children.
UNICEF is the world's leading children's organization. Over the 60 years of its history it has become a primary reference for governments and NGOs, collecting and disseminating more research on children than any other organization, writing position papers on various aspects of the health and environments of children. UNICEF has also organized world-wide fundraising drives, to fund interventions which directly benefit children.
These efforts have earned it a sterling reputation. But no organization is either faultless or without critics. Many groups, governments, and individuals have criticized UNICEF over the years for failing to meet the needs of their particular group or interest. Recent examples include criticism of its perceived failure to hold the Government of Sudan adequately accountable for the practice of slavery in southern Sudan, its policy against the marketing of breastmilk substitutes in developing world hospitals, and its adherence to the 1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratfied by every government in the world except the United States and Somalia.
Unlike NGOs, UNICEF is an inter-governmental organization and thus is accountable to governments. This gives it unique reach and access in every country in the world, but also sometimes hampers its ability to speak out on rights violations.
UNICEF has also been criticized for having political bias; while UNICEF aims to fund only non-political organizations, NGO Monitor (published by former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dore Gold) criticizes the UNICEF-funded "Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation" (PYALARA), a student-run Palestinian NGO, for what NGO Monitor alleges is its covert political agenda justifying suicide bombings and demonizing Israel .