New UNICEF Report Focuses on Gender Equality Instead of Child Survival

By | January 12, 2007

(NEW YORK — C-FAM) The latest report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has prioritized women’s rights over child protection and survival. UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children Report 2007” tells states that the achievement of “gender equality” and promotion of women’s rights are necessary for the well-being of children.

The report argues that “the status of women and the well-being of children are deeply intertwined” and “advocates for children would be remiss if they failed to champion the cause of gender equality.” Among the recommendations of the report, UNICEF advocates the imposition of quotas to ensure greater women’s participation in politics, focusing additional resources to achieve gender equality and encouraging an increase in number and activity of women’s groups that can “set in motion a process of broad social change that promotes the rights of girls and women for generations to come.”

Upon release of the report in December, UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman said, “Gender equality and the well-being of children are inextricably linked. When women are empowered to lead full and productive lives, children and families prosper.”

Critics of UNICEF are increasingly concerned that the organization is in jeopardy of abandoning its primary mission to help children. They note that Director Veneman has chosen to continue using the organization to promote a “rights-based approach” started by Veneman’s predecessor, Carol Bellamy. Dr. Richard Horton, the editor of Britain’s most prestigious medical journal, the Lancet, observed in 2004, “This rights-based approach to the future of children fits well with the zeitgeist of international development policy. But a preoccupation of rights ignores the fact that children will have no opportunity for development at all unless they survive.”

Early in her tenure, Veneman promised a group of social conservative NGOs that she was going to change the direction of UNICEF back to child survival and away from the radical feminist agenda. In October, however, UNICEF attempted to block a pro-life move in the Nicaraguan legislature.

Dr. Douglas Sylva, C-FAM Senior Fellow and author of “The United Nations Children’s Fund: Women or Children First?”, told the Friday Fax, “What is so troubling about this report is that it shows that UNICEF is still in the grasp of ideologues – specifically radical feminists who are willing to undermine basic child survival in order to push their agenda. The report is not even about children. Every dollar spent on radical feminism – transforming the family, reproductive rights, political agitation – is a dollar not spent on saving children from things like malaria and starvation. For the sake of UNICEF and the children it is supposed to serve, it is time to stand up and declare that UNICEF should be about children, and women’s issues (however well or ill-advised) should be left to the myriad UN programs and agencies already dedicated to that agenda.”

According to a major study published in the Lancet in 2005, seventy-three percent of the 10.6 million child deaths worldwide each year are the result of six causes: pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, neonatal sepsis, pre-term delivery and asphyxia at birth. Experts note that none of these is given more than a passing mention in the body of the 160-page report.

The report is available at: www.unicef.org/sowc07/report/report.php