Thematic Overview
1960 –1979   The Development Decades

1946 –1959   UNICEF - The Agency for Children
1980 –1989   Child Survival and Development
1990 –1999   Recognizing Children’s Rights
2000 –            Children and Millennium Development Goals

see also
UNICEF Milestones by Year

First Development Decade, the "whole child" and country approach
The 1960’s were declared the ‘first development decade’ by the UN. As dozens of countries gained independence from colonialism, and poverty alleviation was used as ploy to gain alliances during the cold war, an infusion of wealth and technology was considered the panacea to help the world’s poor.

This wider field of social concerns which UNICEF gradually moved into, and which helped to implement the rights set forth in the Declaration, stemmed mainly from a new premise: activities benefiting children would be more effective if they took account of the interrelations between health, nutrition, education, community development and social welfare, and in addition, of the interrelations between all these and other aspects of national policy. Children's needs were now addressed through linkages of services affecting “the whole child”.

Closely related to all this was a “country approach” in which the
possibilities for effective action in each particular country became the main programme guideline. UNICEF also began advocating planning for children in national development and supporting programmes which formed an integral part of the country’s development efforts, adding to these efforts and benefiting
from them.

This new concept had significant implications for UNICEF’s own operations. Its representatives could no longer confine themselves to working with sub-departments of Ministries of Health and Social Welfare, but instead had to engage with all branches of government. The situation of children should be discussed within Ministries of National Planning, no less. And because children’s concerns would have to be contemplated by research institutes and within national surveying and planning exercises, these were all activities that UNICEF would henceforth be willing to support.

At a meeting in Addis Ababa in 1966, UNICEF’s Executive Board opted to support the concept of ‘responsible parenthood’, whose primary objective was to improve the survival, well-being and quality of life of every child, mother and family. Family planning was considered in the broader context of maternal and child health, embracing improvements in the status of women (a harbinger of the conferences in Cairo and Beijing), promoting literacy, raising the age of marriage and avoiding unwanted pregnancies.

Emergency relief
Although moving toward a comprehensive view of children’s needs, UNICEF did not neglect its earlier emergency relief role. Wherever possible it linked its participation in relief efforts to rehabilitation and long-term development programmes, working closely with other United Nations agencies and with non-governmental organizations.

Relief was provided following natural disasters and to victims of the
man-made emergencies resulting from civil conflicts and war. In many situations, UNICEF was able to operate in politically difficult circumstances — in the early days on both sides of the civil war in China, in the different occupation zones in Germany, and for children among Palestine refugees and in Israel, and later for children caught on different sides of armed conflicts in Nigeria, Vietnam, Kampuchea, Lebanon, Central America, Sudan and Uganda. It provided aid for children and mothers under the care of liberation movements in southern Africa.

The organization’s unique charter to provide assistance to all children on the basis of need alone and its record of offering relief to children on both sides in conflict situations provided room to manoeuvre. UNICEF was designated by the UN as the ‘lead agency’ for relief operations in Kampuchea, and UNICEF Executive Director James Grant was appointed by the Secretary-General as his Personal Representative for Operation Lifeline Sudan. "Corridors of tranquility" were opened so that relief convoys could pass through contested territory.

Nobel Peace Prize
UNICEF increasingly became a world-wide symbol for cooperation involving the international community, governments and people in a global partnership to take advantage of substantial opportunities for improving the lives of the world’s poorest children.

This partnership was highlighted when UNICEF received the Nobel Peace Prize in’1965. In an official address that accompanied the award it was pointed out that the international action promoted by UNICEF was forging a link of solidarity between rich and poor nations and was helping fulfill Alfred Nobel’s dream of brotherhood among nations. UNICEF was characterized as “a peace-factor of great importance.”

Second Development Decade
By the early 1970s, the development movement was re-addressed. The idea that liberal infusions of capital and technology would end gross poverty were proved incorrect. Despite economic growth in developing countries, the number of poor had only increased – as had the gap between rich and poor people, and between rich and poor nations. At the same time soaring oil prices ended the era of cheap energy and industrialization, and two failed world harvests in 1972 and 1974 affected 500 million children. In 1974 an ‘Emergency for Children’ was declared.

Development analysts concluded that the second Development Decade must include initiatives deliberately targeted to the poor to help them meet their basic needs for food, water, housing, health and education. It was to be known as the ‘basic services’ approach.

According to UNICEF, development was failing to reach the poor because existing services for health, education and agricultural extension were modeled on those in industrialized countries. Existing services rarely reached as far as the village, and even when they did they were often unconnected to the villagers’ own perception of their needs. As an alternative, UNICEF proposed a range of integrated basic services that would be flexible enough to be adapted by and within the community.

UNICEF trained lay members of the community to perform simple tasks such as baby weighing, early childhood stimulation and basic handpump maintenance. These volunteers could thus act as ‘barefoot’ workers delivering local services. In this way, services could be more widely extended without exorbitant extra costs.

In 1978, at an international conference in Alma Ata Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (now Aluraty, Kazakhstan) Ministers of Health from all over the developing world agreed that their health delivery systems must be radically restructured to provide primary health care (PHC) for all their citizens. The critical service was care for mothers and children before, during and after birth. Added to this were emergency first aid, surveillance of young child growth, disease control, family planning, safe water supplies and environmental sanitation. This radical vision set an ambitious goal, ‘Health for All by the Year 2000’.

The International Year of the Child, 1979
During the first two Development Decades, the emphasis on development and on other great issues of the day had somewhat submerged the special needs of childhood. Anxious to bring children back to the forefront, NGOs persuaded the UN to declare 1979 the International Year of the Child (IYC), the year of the 20th anniversary of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

IYC generated an interest in the well-being of children in many countries that far exceeded the expectations of many. In industrialized countries it also resulted in a greater, awareness of the situation of children in the developing world. Additionally it focused attention on needs and problems of children which were common to developing and industrialized countries.

IYC brought strikingly to the fore the increasing need felt in a large
number of developing countries to complement services directed to the survival and physical well-being of their children with other measures concerned with their upbringing and personal development. Also highlighted was the need to find more effective ways to protect children against neglect and exploitation
and provide more attention to groups of children confronted by special problems.


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