The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was created in 1946 in response to famine and disease affecting children in Europe. The goal of UNICEF, at that time, was to provide these children with food, health care, and clothing. In 1953, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) extended the mandate of UNICEF indefinitely, establishing UNICEF as a permanent fixture of the UN. The committee’s early projects included campaigns to combat and eliminate the treatable mass diseases of the time like tuberculosis, yaws, and leprosy. After the UNGA passed the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, UNICEF had an official UN document around which to frame its goals. In 1961, UNICEF expanded its goals beyond improving children’s health and nutrition to also include education. Around this time, the committee also developed its modern theory on aid, which promotes a holistic approach to addressing the needs of children.
Topic A: Reintegration of Children in Post-Conflict Societies
In 2019, the United Nations Secretary-General called on UNICEF to reintegrate children involved in armed conflict—often as child soldiers—back into society. Removed from their families and homes, these children have limited access to education and even risk becoming stateless if they can’t demonstrate citizenship. In order to access basic public services like education, these children need focused rehabilitation and specialized protection programs to support their successful transition into adulthood. In April 2019, UNICEF, in partnership with Save the Children, was able to reunite over 6,000 children with their families after years of separation caused by the conflict in South Sudan. UNICEF and its partners assist communities in establishing ad hoc systems that register missing children and parents into a national database for family tracing through the assistance of caseworkers, who also advocate for children’s rights at the national, state, and community levels. For families fortunate enough to be reunified, UNICEF also provides support during the transitional period, including food and clothes as well as follow-up interviews from caseworkers in the months after the reunification. However, more work remains to be done to ensure that all children have the chance at a happy, successful life.
Topic B: The Illicit Sale and Abduction of Children
In 2018, UNICEF and the Inter-Agency Coordination Group Against Trafficking (ICAT) found that approximately 28% of all trafficked victims in the world are children. Child trafficking involves the illicit sale of a child; that is, “any act or transaction whereby a child is transferred by any person or group of persons to another for remuneration or any other consideration.” In addition to long-established forms of child trafficking, including child labor, the deployment of child soldiers, and child sex tourism, UNICEF has also noted an increase in illicit intercountry adoption. Intercountry adoptions are meant to align with the 1993 Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoptions, which states that intercountry adoptions should be a last resort, favoring adoptions within countries instead. However, following prominent adoption scandals across the globe, such as the 2007 Guatemala adoptions and the 2010 New Life Children’s Refuge case in Haiti, it is clear that the Hague Convention has not created a transparent, just process for these vulnerable children. Due to financial need, mothers are often coerced to sell their children into adoption for as little as USD 100 or as much as USD 40,000. While discussing this topic, the committee must work to enhance collaboration, make decisions on a case-by-case basis, create safe options for children and families, and increase the viability of support systems in order to combat the rise of the sale of children.