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Thematic Overview
2000 –2006 Children: At the Heart of the
Millennium Development Goals

1946 –1959   UNICEF - The Agency for Children
1960 –1979   The Development Decades
1980 –1989   Child Survival and Development
1990 –1999   Recognizing Children’s Rights

see also
UNICEF Milestones by Year

The Millennium Development Goals
As the new millennium began, world leaders pledged to eliminate the scourge of global poverty and discrimination by 2015 through the Millennium Declaration and eight Millennium Development Goals

The agenda adopted at the 2000 Millennium Summit and reaffirmed at the 2005 World Summit is highly focused on children. Seven of the eight Millennium Development Goals specifically concern children. The Millennium Declaration itself contains extensive commitments for children, including a section on “protecting the vulnerable”. In this, the Millennium Declaration and the MDGs reflect many of the obligations that have been adopted by States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Millennium agenda has guided UNICEF’s work since 2000. The organization is dedicated to ensuring that everything possible is done to bring these goals to fruition.

Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
At the outset of the decade UNICEF also strengthened its advocacy for the protection of children, taking an active role in drafting and promoting the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which were adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2000 and became effective in 2002. These were the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Both have been ratified by more than 80 governments.

Child soldiers
UNICEF’s work on ending the involvement of children in combat accelerated in the early years of the 21st century. The organization played a key role in serving the releasing children from armed forces and other combatant groups in Afghanistan, Angola, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sri Larka, Sudan and Uganda. Another milestone was set in July 2002 when the statute of the International Criminal Court entered into force, making the conscription, enlistment or use of children under 15 in hostilities by national armed forces or by armed groups a war crime.

The UN General Assembly Special Session on Children
In addition to the MDGs, UNICEF‘s work in the opening decade of the 21st century is also guided by the compact that emerged from the of the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children, which took place in May 2002. This major event was specifically intended as a follow-up to the World Summit for Children to review progress during the 1990s. The Special Session was the culmination of years of work by thousands of organizations. It was unlike any other UN conference. The widest possible range of civil society organizations working with and for children played an active part in organizing the Session from the start. The Special Session was also unique among UN meetings in another respect: it encouraged the active participation of children. Over 400 children from more than 150 countries convened at the UN General Assembly in New York City in May 2000.

The Global Movement for Children
In 2001, six leading organizations that work with children – the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (now known as “BRAC”), Foundation, PLAN International, Save the Children, UNICEF and World Vision – came together to announce their commitment to building a Global Movement for Children. This worldwide movement aimed to draw in everyone who believed that children’s rights must be the first priority, from caring parents to government ministers, from responsible corporations to teachers and child protection officers. The Global Movement for Children aimed to mobilize support all over the world for a 10-point agenda to ‘change the world with children’.

Say Yes for Children Campaign
In its most popular form, this campaign urged people all over the world to Say Yes for Children, signing up to support key actions to improve the world for children. Between April 2001, when Nelson Mandela and Graça Machel made the first pledges, and May 2002, when they were presented with the latest pledge tally in New York, more than 94 million people worldwide had joined the Say Yes campaign.

A World Fit for Children
The point of all this advocacy and popular mobilization was to create a climate in which political leaders felt compelled to take their responsibilities to children seriously. At the Special Session, world leaders ultimately agreed on an outcome document called ‘A World Fit for Children’, which committed them to completing the unfinished agenda of the World Summit for Children, and included and included 21 specific goals and targets for the next decade.

Girls Education
Within the context of the Millennium Agenda and in an effort to advance girls’ education indicators, the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) was launched in 2000. UNGEI is a universal movement and an important platform for
girls’ education that embraces a broad spectrum of partners, including governments, UN agencies, donors, NGOs, civil society organizations, the private sector, religious groups, parents, teachers, communities and student organizations. UNGEI aims to contribute to the elimination of gender discrimination and gender disparity in education systems through action at global, national, district and community levels. UNICEF is the lead agency and secretariat for UNGEI, is working strategically with UNGEI partners.

Back to School Campaign
Following the conflict in Afghanistan UNICEF was called upon to play a major role in the reconstruction of the country’s education system. The hunger of Afghan children for the chance to go to school was overwhelming. The role that UNICEF played in supplying educational materials in the ‘Back to School’ campaign under emergency conditions was a unique achievement, the largest such operation it had ever undertaken. On 23 March 2002, when around 3,000
schools across Afghanistan opened their doors to millions of boys and girls, 93 per cent of the educational supplies had been delivered.

UNICEF has learned that education is not a luxury to be provided in an emergency only after other elements are in place. On the contrary, it should be given priority and started as soon as possible. The goal is to create ‘child-friendly spaces’, a concept that was developed during 1999 in response to the Kosovo crisis, the earthquake in Turkey and the violence in what was then East Timor (now Timor-Leste), and subsequently applied in other conflict zones such as Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Iraq, among others, and in the aftermath of natural disasters.

Core commitments to children in complex emergencies
Education is just one part, however, of UNICEF’s now well-established and comprehensive plan for responding to children in emergency situations, which was codified as a set of ‘core commitments’ in 2004. In the short term – the first six to eight weeks – the plan calls for several critical actions. These include
a rapid assessment of the situation of children and women; measles vaccination, vitamin A, essential drugs and nutritional supplements; child and maternal feeding and nutritional monitoring; safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene; assistance to prevent families being separated; and schooling and other learning opportunities.

UNICEF was among the first to respond to the Indian Ocean tsunami that struck in late 2004, working with partners to provide comprehensive assistance to countries affected by the disaster. The agency provided support to help rebuild and restore of the educational, water and sanitation systems and worked to protect affected children from exploitation, trafficking and abuse
and to reunite separated children with their families.

Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS
In the longer term, these core commitments also include organizing child protection and preventing HIV/AIDS and AIDS, which figures more prominently in 21st century UNICEF programmes than ever before. All UNICEF country offices, for example, are now engaged in HIV/AIDS-related programming, advocacy or interventions, and in 2005 the organization launched a major campaign – Unite for Children. Unite against AIDS.

Accelerated Child Survival and Development Strategy
Child survival and development remain central to UNICEF’s work
Notwithstanding its increased emphasis on child protection, education and HIV/AIDS, child survival and development remains central to UNICEF’s mission, and is at the forefront of its new Medium-Term Strategic Plan for 2006–2009. UNICEF is now the world’s largest supplier of anti-malarial mosquito nets. As part of its Immunization Plus approach – which exploits the opportunity of
immunization to deliver other life-saving services – UNICEF has integrated the delivery of insecticide treated nets with routine vaccination and antenatal care visits. Since 2002 this integrated approach to children’s and women’s health has been known as the Accelerated Child Survival and Development Strategy.

National Committees
A feature that makes UNICEF unique in the UN system is its current network of 37 National Committees, which has staunchly supported and promoted the organization’s work to improve children’s lives. The US Committee, created in 1947, was the first of these. As European countries recovered from the devastation of World War II, National Committees were formed in Belgium, Germany, Scandinavian countries, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, among others. Today, there are National Committees throughout Europe as well as in Australia, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and Korea.

Each committee has its own structure: some are totally independent of their governments; others are virtually sub-departments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During their first years of operation, the National Committees concentrated most of their efforts on selling Christmas cards and creating networks of volunteer support groups. Later, they became deeply involved in larger drives, such as the highly successful 1959 Freedom from Hunger campaign and the famous Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF campaign. More recently, the Committees have continued to evolve and diversify. They were crucial in persuading governments to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, led the movement against anti-personnel land mines and, most recently, coordinated the October 2005 launch of the Global Campaign on Children and AIDS.

The financial contribution of the Committees remains crucial. By 2005, they contributed 37 per cent of UNICEF’s overall income.The National Committees are committed, indefatigable partners in the fight to ensure the rights of all children. Their efforts reach the hearts and minds of millions, inspiring them to volunteer their time and money to help UNICEF fulfil its mission.

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