The Development Decades
1946 –1959 UNICEF -
The Agency for Children
Child Survival and Development
Recognizing Children’s Rights
Children and Millennium Development Goals
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
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.
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
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
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
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’.
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
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