Autor: Douglas A. Sylva Fuente: C-FAM (Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute)

For decades, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has enjoyed perhaps the finest reputation of any large international organization. UNICEF earned this reputation through an unwavering commitment to improve the health and lives of as many children as possible. However, since the mid-1990s, some observers have grown increasingly concerned about programmatic and ideological changes at UNICEF. In 1995, Carol Bellamy, a New York politician known for her ardent support of abortion rights, was named UNICEF Executive Director. In 1996, the Vatican suspended its annual contribution to UNICEF, citing, among other reasons, UNICEF’s involvement in abortion advocacy and the distribution of contraceptives to adolescents. And, over the past few years, numerous complaints have been made about graphic and suggestive sexual education manuals that UNICEF has produced and distributed to countries in Latin America.
For these reasons, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute and the International Organizations Research Group have produced a thorough and comprehensive White Paper investigating the agency. The White Paper employs primary sources – UNICEF documents and the reports of its nongovernmental partners – almost exclusively. We have found that there is substantial reason for concern, that UNICEF has lost its primary focus, a focus upon basic child survival and development, that was so ably demonstrated throughout the tenure of UNICEF Executive Director James Grant (1980-1995). UNICEF now engages in a number of controversial programs centered upon the promotion of a radical feminist ideology. We fear that the promotion of this ideology may detract from UNICEF’s basic child survival mission.
UNICEF and Abortion
Although it publicly denies all possible involvement with the promotion of abortion, we have discovered that UNICEF approves of abortion, the killing of the world’s most vulnerable children. UNICEF has endorsed, even helped to write, documents that call for the legalization of abortion. In a document on AIDS, UNICEF calls for “safe and legal abortion.” In a document on maternal health, UNICEF calls for “safe services for pregnancy termination.” In a document on the rights of refugees, UNICEF proclaims that the “regulation of fertility” is an essential right of refugee women. In the same document, UNICEF endorses the distribution of abortion-causing “emergency contraceptives” to these women.
And UNICEF’s involvement with abortion might not end with words. According to the UN Population Fund, UNICEF has helped to pay for a program run by the Population Council, the organization that holds the US patent for the abortion pill, RU 486. Goals of this UNICEF-funded program included “improving…reproductive health services” and “managing unwanted pregnancies.” In UN parlance, “reproductive health services” has often included abortion, and “managing unwanted pregnancies” is a phrase routinely used by pro-abortion non governmental organizations as a euphemism for abortion – the proper manner in which to manage an unwanted pregnancy being to terminate it.
UNICEF also funds a South African group called loveLife, whose website, as of the beginning of 2003, actively encouraged teenage girls to have abortions, even providing them with the toll free telephone number of Marie Stopes International abortion clinics: “You can get an abortion done at Marie Stopes Clinics, 0800 11 7785 if you are happy to pay for the services.” LoveLife pushes girls towards abortion with unabashed insistence: “You’re pregnant….You didn’t plan it, you don’t want it….Remember, it is your right to get counseling. It is your right to get an abortion. If people are unhelpful, don’t get discouraged. Keep trying. You don’t need permission from anybody to have an abortion.” LoveLife also mentions that a girl can have an abortion – a procedure it describes as a “gentle suction” – without telling her parents. Instead, a girl should “Talk to someone – a health worker, a counselor, or someone you can trust.” After his girlfriend’s abortion, loveLife recommends that a boyfriend should “Help her feel special – even a cup of tea can help! Celebrate together if you want. Wait before you suggest sex and take it easily and gently. Use contraception.” Finally, loveLife informs girls what they can expect after their abortions: “You will feel a sense of relief. Some people like to do a ritual to end the process – light a candle, plant a flower, write a poem or go for a long walk.”
UNICEF and Contraception
UNICEF’s record on contraceptives is no better. A UNICEF historian writes that, for most of its existence, “UNICEF was focusing its attention almost exclusively on trying to encourage behavioural change – abstinence or mono-partnership….UNICEF did not want to devote the energies of its procurement system to becoming a leading world supplier of low-cost condoms (as it had vaccines)…” But it is now official UNICEF policy to “Promote and expand access to…sexual and reproductive health services, including access to condoms.” And this remains true, even though evidence from AIDS-ravaged Africa now suggests that abstinence training, UNICEF’s original program, is the most effective means to combat the spread of the disease.
In fact, condoms appear to be an evermore prominent component of UNICEF’s vast health-care empire. Australian politicians were happy to discover, for instance, that the tiny Pacific island of Vanuatu had a UNICEF-funded clinic “…where condoms were placed in a basket close to the entrance door for easy access and visibility. A client can just walk in, collect condom supplies and leave without having to ask the health workers for them. This is an excellent example of making condoms easily accessible without any hassle for the clients.” A population-control website also lauds UNICEF for funding a 1998 project carried out by Marie Stopes (again, the abortionists) in China that “increased young people’s access to affordable high-quality condoms by installing condom machines at entertainment establishments.”
UNICEF and Sex Education
Among some high-ranking UNICEF officials, there is a palpable distaste for traditional sexual morality, and a deep-ceded attachment to condoms. Urban Jonsson, UNICEF Eastern and Southern African Regional Director, told a June, 2003 UNICEF Executive Board meeting that all discourse on the relative effectiveness of condoms should cease: “Let us stop the almost metaphysical debate on the pros and cons of the use of condoms...Let us follow the decision of the government of Botswana to make condoms available and accessible for everybody, everywhere and at all times….Abstinence is simply not a realistic option for most young people in the world today.” Jonsson even called upon UNICEF to take actions to legalize prostitution: “de-criminalise sex-work and facilitate the organisation of sex-workers. Experience from Europe and Thailand has shown that when sex-workers are organized they are in a stronger position to negotiate safer sex with their clients.”
Condoms are just a part of UNICEF’s assault on traditional sexual morality. UNICEF has been involved in the production of a number of graphic sexual education textbooks in Latin America. In 2000, Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador denounced one such manual, stating that “The dignity of people, institutions such as marriage and the rights of the family are all practically demolished with this document.” He called the illustrations in the manual “insinuating and grotesque.”
And UNICEF continues to support the South African group loveLife, even after it became public that loveLife encourages sexual promiscuity among adolescents. On its website, loveLife informed children that being bisexual means “Swinging both ways. Some people prefer not to limit their horny feelings to only half of the population. They’ll fall in love with whoever feels right – male or female. Why let body parts limit the power of love?!” LoveLife also asserts that, “If you wanna be a great lover, learn good foreplay!….Go on – experiment, make your partner melt. Take your time – only amateurs rush such pleasure.” And all of this practice is meant to lead to one thing: “Orgasm: …an orgasm is a big rush of juicy satisfaction! You explode with pleasure and its yum yum
yum….Your body melts, your heart pumps and the world feels like the perfect place to be.”
UNICEF and Education
A long commitment to raise worldwide enrollment rates – what has always been called “Education for All” – has now been transformed into a singular emphasis on girls’ enrollment. UNICEF now seeks to boost girls’ school enrollment – labeling this endeavor its first priority – without any mention at all of boys’ enrollment. In sub-Saharan Africa, where UNICEF claims that 27% of boys and 22% of girls attend school, only the girls’ rate is worthy of attention, because it is lower than the boys’ own dismal rate. At the same time, UNICEF admits that girls actually outnumber boys in school in such diverse nations as Columbia, Namibia, Spain, Lesotho, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Uruguay, Finland, Guyana, Mongolia and the United Kingdom, and that “girls generally lead boys in Latin America and the Caribbean.” However, UNICEF has no program in any one of these places to address this inequality. When boys are disadvantaged, it simply seems that this disadvantage does not matter. This fact led the US delegate at a recent UNICEF Executive Board meeting to plaintively ask, “Why just girls?”
Also, this campaign for girls’ enrollment includes an effort to rewrite school textbooks according to current radical feminist gender theory, strongly encouraging, among other things, girls to have small families and to work outside of the home.
UNICEF, Families and Radical Feminism
UNICEF’s embrace of feminist ideology is apparent wherever one looks. It is reflected in the overwhelming emphasis UNICEF places upon the problems facing girls. In fact, as of May 1, 2003, a search on the UNICEF website found that girls where mentioned 3164 times, while boys were only mentioned 1682 times. Can it be said that girls, and issues and concerns relating to girls, warrant twice as much discussion, twice as much attention, as boys?
UNICEF also appears more interested in transforming family life based upon radical feminist norms than in supporting families. UNICEF is actively engaged in re-educating boys and men to accomplish “behaviour change.” However, UNICEF almost never speaks of fatherhood in a positive manner, and although it has a vast number of programs to help women and mothers, there appear to be no UNICEF programs that specifically address the needs and problems faced by fathers.
Donor nations must demand greater transparency in UNICEF spending. Donor nations must demand that UNICEF stop promoting abortion rights. Donor nations must demand that UNICEF cease to engage in the promotion and distribution of graphic sexual education materials, and that UNICEF publicly account for the activities of all UNICEF health services, especially those relating to the funding or distribution of contraceptives to adolescents. Donor nations should examine the actions of senior management at UNICEF, since it is this leadership that has moved the agency in the direction outlined above. Finally, donor nations should seek assurances from UNICEF that it will rededicate itself to its primary mission, child survival and development, a mission that may have been compromised by the agency’s espousal of radical feminist ideology.
The full report, which includes citations for all of the information in the Executive Summary, is available online at
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