United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Part- II

The United Nations Children's Fund is a United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide. 

In the previous blog, we looked at the foundation, vision, mission, the structure and funding sources of UNICEF. In this blog we will explore the relationship and work of UNICEF in India, its strengths and weaknesses; and its initiatives for sustainable development.

UNICEF and India 

  • UNICEF began its work in India in 1949 with three staff members and established an office in Delhi three years later.  
  • Currently, it advocates for the rights of India’s children in 16 states. 
  • Nodal Ministries: Ministry of Women and Child Development. 
  • Work done by UNICEF in India includes: 
  • Census support, 2011: Gender issues were mainstreamed into the training and communication strategy for the 2011 Census. 
  • This helped 2.7 million enumerators and supervisors collect quality disaggregated data as part of the UNICEF contribution to the joint United  Nations support to the Census. 
  • Polio Campaign, 2012: Polio cases in India fell from 559 in 2008 to zero cases in  2012.  
  • The Government, in partnership with UNICEF, the World Health  
  • Organization (WHO), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary  
  • International and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contributed to almost universal awareness of the need to vaccinate all children under five against polio. 
  • As a result of these efforts, India was removed from the list of endemic countries in 2014. 
  • Reduction in MMR, 2013: UNICEF’s support to the National Health Mission  (NHM) and the second phase of the Reproductive and Child Health programme resulted in increased access to institutional and community-based maternal, neonatal and child health services.  
  • This contributed to a reduction in the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) to 130 (2014-16), and the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) to 34 (2016). (Data Source: NITI Aayog) 
  • MMR is defined as the proportion of maternal deaths per 1,00,000 live births. 
  • IMR is the number of deaths per 1,000 live births of children under one year of age. 
  • Call to Action, 2013: This initiative was launched to reduce under-five mortality.
  • It has brought together state governments, development partners, such as UNICEF, NGOs, the corporate sector and other key stakeholders under the umbrella to ensure harmony in efforts to accelerate inroads in child survival. 
  • Maternal and Child Nutrition, 2013: The Ministry of Women and Child  Development (MWCD) successfully launched a nationwide communication campaign on Maternal and Child Nutrition with UNICEF Ambassador promoting nutrition for children. 
  • This was one of the largest public service campaigns in the country, reaching people across India, through diverse means of communication in  18 languages. 

o India Newborn Action Plan, 2014: This is first of this kind in the region, builds upon the existing commitments for newborn under Call to Action, the  RMNCH+A (Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child Health + Adolescent)


Like many global organizations around the world, UNICEF has its fair share of strengths and weaknesses. They are listed in brief below:

Strengths include: 

  • UNICEF has demonstrated that it can make significant changes in strategy and practice,  albeit slowly. 
  • UNICEF has become an authority on Girls Education, resulting in a growing competence in Child Protection and through the United Nations Program on HIV and AIDs (UNAID)  spreading awareness about the prevalence of HIV/AID. 
  • UNICEF has successfully made the shift from a needs-based, vertical sector programme to a rights-based approach rooted in the Convention on the Right of the Child, although greater clarity on the implementation of rights-based programming at country level is still required. 
  • Emergency response is now widely accepted as a core part of the UNICEF mandate and preparedness and response planning has improved. 
  • Gender-sensitive programming has been strengthened, though still patchy. 
  • Security standards have been introduced and security capacity and communications networks strengthened. 
  • There has been a marked improvement in the supply function. 

Its Weaknesses include: 

Self-Image: While UNICEF has become far more active in, and at times even led from the front in cases of inter-agency processes. Yet the image of UNICEF as an agency that ‘keeps its distance’ still persists to this date. 

Partnership: There has been a rapid increase in collaboration and diversification of partnerships with civil society. Despite this, UNICEF priorities and strategies for partnerships are limiting the scope for partnership. 

Criticizing Government: While UNICEF’s close strong relationships with government departments is lauded, it is also criticized in taking a lax attitude when it comes to tackling government partners due to UNICEF being reluctant to antagonize them and jeopardizing their operations in the host country. 

Bureaucracy and Complexity: UNICEF sees itself as overly bureaucratic. Staff resources (i.e. time plus skill) are being wasted on overly complex internal processes and there seems to be no concerted organisational push to deal with this. 

Results-based management: Programming is becoming more results-oriented but this is far from ‘managing by results’. Management by inputs is still the dominant management model. 

Accountability: Accountability is hampered by a weak performance management regime.  Managers are not yet accountable for results or being rewarded for achieving them.

Human Resources: Human Resource Management was a cause of concern, including continuing problems with timely recruitment, gaps in technical competencies, and increasing occurrence of staff “burn-out”.  

Strategic Plan (2018–2021) 

  • The plan will help realize and protect the rights of all children through five goal areas,  which are linked to both the Sustainable Development Goals and the Convention on  the Rights of the Child

o every child survives and thrives; 

o every child learns; 

o every child is protected from violence and exploitation; 

o every child lives in a safe and clean environment; and 

o every child has an equitable chance in life. 

  • The plan also includes two additional areas that cut across all of the other goals:  

o gender equality 

o humanitarian action 

  • It promotes synergies across goal areas to address early childhood development and adolescent development, and to support children with disabilities. 

The Future of the Child (The Child in 2030) 

  • Foresight for action: It is the methodologies, practices and processes that help UNICEF  to navigate uncertainty and better prepare for the future. 
  • Foresight identifies emerging trends and the changing circumstances that could impact the future of the child. 
  • It allows UNICEF to look beyond what is probable and prepare for what is possible. 
  • To demonstrate the utility of foresight, UNICEF analyses five megatrends that are of  growing importance for children: 

o global health crises 

o inequality and the middle-income trap 

o the changing nature and scale of the conflict 

o global migration 

o the effects of technology on work and education

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Blog Post written by:
Anurag Trivedi
UPSC Mentor