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UNICEF History

State of the World's Children (1980-1995)

Launched in 1980 by UNICEF Executive Director James Grant, the 'State of the World’s Children' is the most comprehensive analysis of global trends affecting children. Available below in PDF format are all 'State of the World's Children' reports from 1980-81 to 1995.


The first State of the World’s Children report (1980-81) focuses on the impact of poverty on children’s lives. It argues that perhaps for the first time the world has the resources and knowledge to mount a decisive push against hunger, disease and illiteracy. It calls for long-term political commitment to eradicating the worst aspects of poverty before the end of the twentieth century.

The State of the World's Children 1981-1982 advocates the rapid acceleration of the development progress for the world’s poorest billion people in order to significantly improve the lives of their children by the end of the twentieth century. It argues that working with families and communities to provide for the health and education of their children is not only a matter of justice. It is also a productive investment in the world’s economic and social future.

The State of the World's Children 1982-1983 launches the 'child survival and development revolution'. The message of the report: recent advances in both biological sciences and social organisation – including child growth monitoring to recognize undernutrition, oral re-hydration therapy to treat diarrhoea, breastfeeding and immunization against six vaccine-preventable diseases (sometimes collectively referred to as 'GOBI') – have made it possible to save the lives of millions of children who die every year from preventable causes and to prevent an equally large number from becoming mentally or physically disabled.

The State of the World's Children 1984 continues to draw attention to the fact that four relatively simple and low-cost methods ('GOBI') could enable parents themselves to halve the rate of child mortality and child disability in the developing world. The report describes the worldwide response to the challenge of the 'child survival and development revolution' and brings together examples from around the world of the techniques which make this revolution for children possible. The report includes articles by distinguished experts in child health, who draw on their own work to describe the revolutionary potential of the new techniques and to spell out the practical difficulties.

The State of the World's Children 1985 reports on the progress of the 'GOBI' strategies as they begin to go into action in different parts of the world. It brings together summaries – in accessible 'notes and quotes' form – of the latest research and writings on the low-cost interventions which make a child survival revolution possible. The report argues that if the low-cost techniques are to fulfil their potential to save millions of children’s lives, the focus of health care must be shifted from institutions to families. Changing perceptions of what is normal, what is possible, and what the individual can do to improve family life is both the means and the end of the revolution in child survival and development.

The State of the World's Children 1986 looks at the recent surge forward in immunization and describes how the strategy of social mobilization is being used to put this and other low-cost child protection techniques at the disposal of millions of parents. The second part of the report brings together a distillation of facts and examples, recent research findings and current expert opinion, on the major low-cost opportunities now available for protecting children's lives and development – including sections on growth monitoring, oral rehydration therapy, breastfeeding and weaning, immunization, respiratory infections and female education.

The State of the World's Children 1987 argues that the world has the means to attack childhood malnutrition and disease on a massive scale and at an affordable cost. And as a dramatic demonstration of this new potential, the lives of over 4 million children have already been saved – in the last five years alone – by nations which have mobilized to put low-cost solutions into effect. Inset panels document this experience nation by nation, and describe the new methods being used to bring about a drastic improvement in child survival and development. The report includes a chapter that commemorates the fortieth anniversary of UNICEF, documenting the main changes in the state of the world’s children since UNICEF’s establishment in 1946.

The State of the World's Children 1988 constitutes a direct appeal for the involvement of all possible resources in the cause of child survival and development. It argues that what is needed is a Grand Alliance – of governments and peoples, education systems and religious leaders, mass media and voluntary agencies, business and labour, professional associations and conventional health services – to create a universal demand for, and practical knowledge of, those methods which could bring about a revolution in child survival and development.

The State of the World's Children 1989 looks at some of the major child health achievements of the 1980s – achievements which are now saving the lives of at least two and a half million children each year. But this rate of progress is now threatened by rising debts and the reversal of economic development in large areas of the developing world. The report argues that the heavy burden of the debt crisis is being passed on to the children of the world’s poor. Calling for action on debt reduction, trade and aid to restore the momentum to development, the report argues that the derailment of the development effort also offers an opportunity to re-examine its direction. Looking to the decade ahead, the report calls for a real development pact between industrialized and developing nations to attempt to meet the needs of the poorest third of mankind.

The State of the World's Children 1990 summarizes the great set-backs and great achievements of the 1980s and sets out the central challenges for the decade ahead. It states that, as the world struggles to free itself from the burdens of debt servicing and military spending, there are signs of a new concern for children. The prospect of a World Summit for Children, the new Convention on the Rights of the Child, and practical advances such as the near achievement of universal child immunization could mark the beginning of a new priority for children. The principle of according children 'first call' on society’s concerns and capacities underlies all of the issues discussed in the report, as UNICEF believes it should underlie the many decisions and actions which will shape the decade ahead.

The State of the World's Children 1991 focuses on the 1990 World Summit for Children and its outcomes. The Declaration and Plan of Action adopted by the Summit is published with the report, as is the full text of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The report’s panels describe all 22 of the specific goals for the year 2000 and show why they are attainable and affordable. The report therefore serves as a basic record of the commitment made by the international community, with respect to its children, for the decades ahead.

The State of the World's Children 1992 is offered, from the particular perspective of UNICEF’s experience in working with some of humanity’s most acute problems, as a contribution to the debate on the new world order which is struggling to be born. The report submits 10 specific propositions which, taken together, add up to a proposal that ending the extreme poverty of one quarter of the world’s people should be a top priority on the agenda of the new world order. The report urges world leaders to honour their commitments to children undertaken at the 1990 World Summit for Children. It also stresses the importance of mobilizing all possible social resources behind the commitments that have been made and calls on all concerned organizations and individuals to become involved in keeping the promise.

The State of the World's Children 1993 notes that the means to end mass malnutrition, preventable disease and widespread illiteracy among the world’s children are available. The report advocates for a worldwide movement to protect children from the worst aspects of poverty and argues that such movement would strengthen efforts to promote environmental protection, sustainable economic growth, gender equality, and political stability. It calls for the involvement of all sectors of the global society, including governments, the media, health and education professionals, and non-governmental organizations.

The State of the World's Children 1994 summarizes the progress being made against the major threats to the health and nutrition of children in the world’s poorest communities and outlines the potential for further advances in the near future. It sets this progress and potential in the context of three key obstacles to human development: poverty, population growth, and environmental deterioration. The report calls for a renewed focus on the cause of meeting the most basic needs of all children, both for its own sake and as an essential step towards the obstacles to development.

The State of the World's Children 1995 has as its centrepiece an account of what is being achieved following the specific promises that were made by world leaders at the 1990 World Summit for Children. Set against the backdrop of genocide in Rwanda, the report examines key threats to human security – including economic exclusion and political instability – that deprive millions of children of the right to develop fully in mind and body. It highlights key strategies behind progress that has been made and calls upon the upcoming 1995 World Summit for Social Development to break down the broad challenges of the global development consensus into doable propositions.






'State of the World's Children': 1996-present

State of the World's Children reports from 1996 to the current year are available from the 'State of the World's Children' index.

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