The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is the bodyof the United Nationsmost concerned with the well-being of children. It was created by the General Assembly in 1946 as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fundwith the purpose to provide emergency aid, i.e. food and healthcare to children and mothers in post-war Europe and China. In 1950 its mandate was broadened, from then on UNICEF worked not only in case of emergencies but was able to address the long-term needs of children in developing countries. In 1953 it finally became a permanent part of the United Nations system, its name was adapted, but the abbreviation stayed the same. The fund reports to the General Assembly through an Executive Board, which we will simulate. Today UNICEF works in over 190 countries. Besides its emergency program, it promotes children’s rights, policies that protect children and inclusion as well as the empowerment of girls and women. Furthermore, UNICEF works to reduce child mortality and to ensure that every child receives quality education.
Topic I: Ensuring Access to (Quality)-Education for Children with Disabilities
There are approximately 200 million children with disabilities worldwide and 80 percent are living in developing countries. Of these 160 million children, around 90 percent don’t go to school. Due to this lack of access to education and other factors like exclusion from the workforce, stigma and marginalization, children with disabilities are much more likely to fall into poverty. According to the World Bank, people with disabilities account for up to one in five of the world’s poorest people. That every child independent of its gender and ability has the same rights, including the right to education, entered international law with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1989. In 1994 the Salamanca Statement and the Framework for Action on Special Needs Education recommended that inclusive education should be the norm. However, schools lack resources and teachers lack training for an inclusive and accessible education. Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals concerning quality education includes the target to build and upgrade educational facilities to make schools truly inclusive. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals until 2030, which means among other things to eradicate poverty in all its forms and ensure education for all boys and girls, UNICEF needs to work together to ensure access to education for children with disabilities as a first crucial step.
Topic II: Child Protection for Refugee Children on the Move
More than half of any refugee population are children, which need special attention because they are children first and therefore more vulnerable to threats. Children are susceptible to disease, malnutrition and injury. They need the support of adults, for physical survival but especially for psychological and social well being. To proper care for refugee children the support of their family and community is crutial, as they take their immediate support from them. Child protection laws should minimize children’s vulnerability they should enforce a violent free enviroment, free from exploitation or other threats.
Adolescents and youth on the move along the Central Mediterranean route and the Eastern Mediterranean route are exposed to high levels of abuse, exploitation and discrimintaion. They are more vulnerable to trafficking, especially when they travel alone. UNICEF calls on World leaders to embrace a six point Agenda for Action that puts children at the heart of the global compacts for refugees and migration:
- Protect uprooted children from exploitation and violence.
- End the detention of refugee and migrant children by creating practical alternatives.
- Keep families together and give children legal status.
- Help uprooted children to stay in school and stay healthy.
- Press for action on the causes that uproot children from their homes
- Combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization.
One key goal for UNICEF is to show that protecting migrant, displaced and refugee children is not only right in principle, it is also right in practice.