UNICEF initiated collaboration with Pacific governments nearly fifty years ago. For the first twenty-five years programming capacity was severely limited. Budget levels and staff resources were quite low with in-country programming primarily managed by other United Nations agencies, most notably the World Health Organisation. In these early years, UNICEF assistance focused on supply inputs in support of health and water projects. The first major expansion of UNICEF involvement came in the mid-1970’s with initiation of a project in support of school curriculum development jointly implemented with the United Nations Development Programme. This project marked UNICEF’s first effort to become actively involved in field programming in the Pacific.
Further expansion of UNICEF’s involvement in the region began in the late 1970’s and continued through 1985 as direct relations with the Pacific governments were formed and a multi-sectoral, multi-dimensional programme developed. Until this period, most governments in the region had never had contact with a UNICEF staff member. This rapidly changed with establishment of regular visitation schedules which facilitated the personal relations and mutual understanding so essential for work in the Pacific.
By mid-1985 UNICEF was involved in some 72 projects in fourteen Pacific countries within four programme areas: child health, water supply and sanitation, nutrition, and early childhood education. It had become apparent however, that the extent of the agency involvement had reached a level requiring major re-orientation of programming strategy in order to facilitate effective programming and responsiveness to national development priorities. Programming had been highly personalized based on field contact between programme staff and national government and NGO officers. The result was a high agency profile in most countries, a broad based programme and some significant impact in meeting children’s needs. In order to fully realize the impact potential, however, a more structured and focused programming approach was needed. Through this process of critical self analysis, UNICEF began to evolve a new programme strategy. The proposed strategy is based on a multi-country programme framework combined with country programme plans.
From 1984 to 1992, UNICEF Pacific was an area office managed by the Manila Office with a Resident Programme Officer in Suva. In January 1993 the area office became a sub-office of UNICEF Philippines until 1997 when it became a full-fledged country office - UNICEF Pacific.