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UNICEF History

A letter from Maurice Pate, UNICEF's first Executive Director

On 10 December 1946, the day before UNICEF was born, a significant handwritten note was penned by UNICEF's soon-to-be first Executive Director Maurice Pate. In the note Pate described the establishment of the United Nations International Children's Fund as "a minor item in the news which may grow larger in time".

Mr. Pate firmly set UNICEF on its future course by accepting the leadership role on one condition: that UNICEF serve children of so-called 'ex-enemy countries'. For more than 60 years UNICEF has worked to save the lives and build the futures of children everywhere, regardless of politics or race. This principle endures and continues to underpin UNICEF's work to this day.

From a copy of a handwritten note from Maurice Pate to Hans Paschen , 10 December 1946. Excerpt from 2nd paragraph on 'Children of ex-enemy countries':
"A minor item in the news, which may grow larger in time, is the establishment of the International Children's Fund under U.N.O. I had been asked to take an active part in it to which I agreed on one condition — namely that it include all children of ex-enemy countries.... This was accepted so I may soon be at work again."

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