Learning from experience: 1989-2005

Browse our timeline to see how UNICEF brought different nations together under a banner to recognize children’s rights.

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A child in a classroom
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18 June 2018
70 years for every child
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Children’s pressing needs became a rallying cry for UNICEF, motivating us to bring leaders from over 150 countries together to unite on behalf of children.

Explore our timeline for the years 1989-2005.


1989

159 United Nations Member States adopt the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Audrey Hepburn reads an excerpt of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
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(Left) UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Audrey Hepburn reads an excerpt of the Convention on the Rights of the Child at a meeting with children from around the world that celebrated the passage of this historic document.

“The best interests of children must be the primary concern in
making decisions that may affect them.”

Convention on the Rights of the Child


1990

Leaders from 152 countries at the first World Summit for Children adopt the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children.

The World Summit for Children 1990.
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The World Summit for Children in 1990 brought together more world leaders than had been witnessed before.


1993

Advancements in global tracking and evaluating lead to the Progress of Nations series, an annual record of national performance on global measurement of the situation of children.

A health worker registers a baby’s vaccinations in Hoc Man. Viet Nam, 1993.
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A health worker registers a baby’s vaccinations in Hoc Man. Viet Nam, 1993.


1994

UNICEF and UNESCO invent and distribute School-in-a-Box, a global effort to support uninterrupted education for children in humanitarian crises. 

Children write on chalkboards
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Children write on chalkboards provided by UNICEF and UNESCO at a temporary school for Rwandan refugees. United Republic of Tanzania, 1994.


1995

At the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China, world leaders renew their commitment to the rights of women and girls.

Women factory workers show their calloused and scarred hands. South Africa, 1998.
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Women factory workers show their calloused and scarred hands. South Africa, 1998.


1995 to 2005

Carol Bellamy speaks with children at a school.
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Carol Bellamy speaks with children at a school receiving support from UNICEF. Somalia 2000.

“When the lives and rights of children are at stake, there must be no silent witnesses.”

Executive Director, Carol Bellamy


1996

The Graça Machel report, Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, describes the devastating effects of war on children and advocates for their special protection.

1998

UNICEF adopts a human rights-based approach to programming, in which the principles of human rights guide all phases of its on-the-ground operations and methods.

Boys in class at al Bainia Primary School. Yemen, 1998.
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Boys in class at al Bainia Primary School. Yemen, 1998.


1999

UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs intervene to administer vaccines and other urgent health services for children in conflict.

Two refugees from conflict in Eastern Europe rest outside the car that brought their family to the border. Albania, 1999.
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Two refugees from conflict in Eastern Europe rest outside the car that brought their family to the border. Albania, 1999.


2002

The Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly – the first dedicated exclusively to children – reviews progress on the goals set by the 1990 World Summit for Children.

A child delegate addresses the United Nations General Assembly.
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A child delegate addresses the United Nations General Assembly during the Special Session on Children. New York 2002.


2004

UNICEF and partners organize a rapid humanitarian response to the tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

An 8-year-old child stands on what remains of her home following a tsunami. India 2005.
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An 8-year-old child stands on what remains of her home following a tsunami. India 2005.


2005 to 2010

Building results-based programming and partnerships to “unite for children”.

Executive Director Ann M. Veneman


UNICEF launches the Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS campaign to mobilize resources and accelerate comprehensive programmatic action for children vulnerable to HIV and AIDS.

Ann M. Veneman sits at the bedside of an earthquake victim. Pakistan, 2005.
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Ann M. Veneman sits at the bedside of an earthquake victim. Pakistan, 2005.
Children attend a local launch of the Unite for Children.
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Children attend a local launch of the Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS campaign. Sudan, 2005.

As the world realized the scale of challenges children face, and agreed to work toward a unified solution, UNICEF began to highlight the impact of inequity on women and children.

Explore our 2006-2015 timeline