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UNICEF communication policy
Executive Board - Plans, Policies and Strategies (1998 Sessions)

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17 April 1998




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United Nations

Distr.: General

16 March 1998

Original: English

For action

United Nations Children’s Fund
Executive Board
Annual session 1998
1-5 June 1998
Item 6 of the provisional agenda*

UNICEF communication policy

        The present report has been prepared pursuant to a discussion of an outline of the UNICEF information and communication policy (E/ICEF/1997/17) that took place at the Executive Board’s 1997 annual session. At that time, delegations asked that a more elaborate communication policy framework be prepared, with a definition of the role of the communication function at global, regional and country levels, the identification of priority areas and a strategy for implementation.

        Chapter I provides a conceptual framework for the UNICEF communication policy; chapter II discusses communication channels and processes; chapter III looks at audience research, monitoring and evaluation; chapter IV describes functional accountability at country, regional and headquarters levels; and chapter V addresses human resource implications. The Executive Director’s recommendation is contained in chapter VI. The annex provides an overview of UNICEF publications.


* E/ICEF/1998/7.

Contents Paragraphs

Introduction ................................................…………………………………………………… 1-2

I. Conceptual framework for the communication policy .....…………………………… 3–20

A. Creating public awareness of child rights issues ..……………………………... 8-9

B. Mobilizing societies to commit resources to help achieve the global
goals for children .............………………………………………………………. 10–11

C. Influencing attitudes and developing the behaviors of those who have
an impact on the situation of children ………………………………………….. 12–13

D. Generating support and resources for the work of UNICEF .............................. 14-15

E. Partners and target audiences ......................……………………………………. 16-17

F. Principles: participation and partnership ..........………………………………… 18-20

II. Communication channels and processes ...................…………………………………. 21-39

A. Electronic communication ...........................……………………………………. 23-31

B. Print ..............................................………………………………………………. 32-34

C. Channels for interpersonal communication ..........………………………………. 35-36

D. Communication through participatory learning .......…………………………….. 37-38

E. Traditional communication channels .................…………………………………. 39

III. Audience research, monitoring and evaluation ...........…………………………………. 40-42

IV. Functional accountability at country, regional and headquarters levels .......................... 43-47

A. Country level ......................................……………………………………………. 44

B. Regional level .....................................……………………………………………. 45

C. Headquarters .......................................……………………………………………. 46–47

V. Human resources ........................................…………………………………………….. 48-49

VI. Recommendation ……………………………………………………………………….. 50

Annex. Review of UNICEF publications ...................................…………………………………………………


1. In its review of an outline of the UNICEF information and publication policy (E/ICEF/1997/17) at its 1997 annual session, Executive Board members requested a more elaborate communication policy framework, a definition of the role of the communication function at the global, regional and country levels, the identification of priority areas and a strategy for implementation. It was agreed that a more detailed report would be presented to the 1998 annual session. The present report thus examines the role of communication in the context of the UNICEF mandate and mission; develops and proposes an expanded communication policy framework and strategies; and discusses the communication functions, activities and structures within UNICEF that support the policy.

2. The proposed policy is derived from a number of recent studies and exercises conducted by UNICEF on its communication activities and from prior policies approved by the Executive Board. These include the above-mentioned outline presented to the Board in 1997 and reports on education for development (E/ICEF/1992/L.8), the future role of UNICEF external relations (E/ICEF/1990/L.4), UNICEF external relations policies and function (E/ICEF/1989/L.4) and the UNICEF communication strategy in industrialized countries (E/ICEF/1987/L.4). The present report is the product of an extensive consultation process involving UNICEF staff in country, regional and headquarters offices.

I. Conceptual framework for the communication policy

3. Since its birth over 50 years ago, UNICEF has used communication to bring attention to the needs of children and to prompt actions to improve their situation. Communication has been an integral part of UNICEF country programming, as well as a tool for advocacy, participation, resource mobilization and partnership-building. Through an integrated communication approach, UNICEF seeks to create a global ethic of "children first". This ethic is based on the recognition that all children have inalienable human rights as proclaimed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These rights are directly linked to the rights of women as set out in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The objectives of UNICEF include the realization of a specific set of child rights through the implementation of the goals for the year 2000 set by the World Summit for Children.

4. Communication plays a pivotal role in bringing together the various actors and sectors needed to protect children’s rights, help to meet their basic needs and expand opportunities for reaching their full potential. This has involved promoting ratification and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child at all levels of society; attempting to ensure that children are at the centre of development efforts; organizing families, communities and civil society to achieve universal child immunization, keep children in school, promote child protection and mobilize resources from Governments, the private sector and donors; and building partnerships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the media and professional and civic organizations. In the context of the country programming process, communication has played a role both in the planning of programmes and in mobilizing resources for them. This has been achieved through sharing data and information from evaluations and through the exchange of experiences. Effective communication is also an essential element for promoting the awareness and use of health and education services.

5. The two overarching goals of communication in UNICEF are first, to influence the attitudes and behaviours of all members of society so that the scope and meaning of children’s rights are understood, internalized and acted upon, in order that they be fully realized. This presumes that children’s rights are achieved through the enactment of laws, the provision of services and the promotion of informed choices of behaviour. The second goal is to help create and maintain an enabling environment that influences legislation and opinion, and mobilizes resources for children.

6. In emergency situations - which often involve the most extreme violations of children’s rights - UNICEF communication efforts have the same overarching goals, but with an additional urgency commensurate with the critical time factor of crises.

7. In working to achieve these goals, UNICEF has set a series of priority objectives for its communication strategy, as described below.

A. Creating public awareness of child rights issues

8. This objective aims to raise public awareness by setting the agenda for children’s issues within the framework of child rights. Information and communication activities are directed towards creating a deeper understanding of children’s needs among people, Governments and institutions. They also seek to define a society's role in meeting those needs.

9. UNICEF seeks to promote public understanding of child rights by collecting information on the situation of children; by examining that information in the context of the standards established by the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and by disseminating that data and accompanying analyses through appropriate communication channels targeted at specific audiences.

B. Mobilizing societies to commit resources to help achieve the global goals for children

10. The UNICEF mandate from the General Assembly requires that it lead advocacy efforts for children. The UNICEF Mission Statement specifies that the organization seeks the mobilization of political will and material resources to help countries, particularly developing countries, ensure a "first call for children" and to build their capacity to form appropriate policies and deliver services for children and their families. According to the Mission Statement, UNICEF is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and strives to establish and promote international standards of behaviour toward children.

11. Fulfilment of the UNICEF mandate involves making the case that the survival, protection and full development of children are legal as well as moral imperatives and that investment in children is of paramount importance to society. Communication activities at all levels are aimed at generating global support for this view by building partnerships and generating political will. These activities are aimed at encouraging societies to put children at the top of the political agenda, and to devote more resources to children’s issues.

C. Influencing attitudes and developing the behaviours of those who have an impact on the situation of children

12. UNICEF seeks to motivate societies and to empower communities, groups and individuals to become fully involved in changing their own lives. It is a process-oriented approach aimed at enabling communities to make positive choices for children. This involves developing new behaviours and articulating demands for services that will help promote these new behaviours. Information must not only be made available; it must be actively utilized to create an enabling and motivating environment. That environment includes the development of skills that will help in problem-solving and capacity-building.

13. The strategies for implementing this objective include: (a) identifying participatory approaches that involve households, local communities and especially women in determining problems, communicating messages and taking action; (b) organizing networks that expand young people’s involvement in the planning and execution of UNICEF local actions; and (c) sensitizing policy and decision makers to children’s issues.

D. Generating support and resources for the work of UNICEF

14. UNICEF seeks support for its work on behalf of children through the mobilization of positive public opinion, political will and material and financial resources. Communication builds the public profile of UNICEF worldwide and establishes its credibility. It does this by: (a) illustrating the effectiveness of UNICEF programmes; (b) affirming the identity of UNICEF as the leading global advocate for children; (c) presenting UNICEF as a centre of knowledge about children’s issues; and (d) promoting special events that highlight UNICEF goals.

15. The effectiveness of UNICEF programmes is illustrated through the various media: publications, television, radio and the Internet. Special events highlight child rights issues and allow people and Governments to learn about UNICEF goals and achievements. Donor and media field visits and external evaluations at the country level help to mobilize resources.

E. Partners and target audiences

16. The specific partners, participants and target audiences in the implementation of the above-mentioned strategies are determined by local and national situations. They include but are not limited to Governments; policy makers; opinion leaders; media professionals; the private sector; NGOs; religious, cultural and educational organizations; the entertainment and sports sectors; service providers; decision makers; women’s, youth and children’s groups; communities; households; and above all, women and children. Target audiences also vary over time.

17. In industrialized countries, communication efforts are directed towards gathering support for, and commitment to, children's rights and UNICEF-supported programmes in developing countries. UNICEF communication activities in industrialized countries are carried out through its key civil society partners, the National Committees for UNICEF.

F. Principles: participation and partnership

18. The objectives outlined above are based on the principle of encouraging the active participation of all audiences in the realization of children’s rights. This ensures an ongoing link between creating and sustaining a social climate that is conducive to changing attitudes and behaviours and in mobilizing resources.

19. The participation of children and young people is especially important. Article 13 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that "the child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to speak, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice". UNICEF communication projects encourage children to engage in activities that help them to express their thoughts and ideas while heightening their awareness; to explore global issues of development; and to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to participate actively in their communities. The provision of information and the stimulation of debate on youth issues is most effective if young people themselves are supported in expressing their views and opinions in distinct forums for youth participation.

20. Collaboration is essential to the achievement of the objectives described above. In the future, UNICEF will need to build and strengthen partnerships with professionals in the communication field, including local and global media, and within the development community.

II. Communication channels and processes

21. Communication on child rights requires the effective utilization of all available channels to promote the widest possible participation of children, families, communities, civil society, the private sector, Governments, NGOs and other partners. UNICEF recognizes that in order to influence social norms and individual behaviours, information and ideas must be conveyed through a multi-channel approach, with each channel reinforcing the others. This requires selectivity at global, regional, national and local levels in choosing appropriate channels and processes depending on the goal, the nature of the communication objective and the targeted audience. The aim is to maximize effectiveness and ensure the broadest possible outreach with limited resources.

22. The UNICEF communication policy acknowledges that while modern media can promote model behaviour and motivate individuals and communities to change, they must be complemented by interpersonal communication in order to sustain such behaviours.

A. Electronic communication

23. The impact of rapid changes in the electronic media is greatly influencing UNICEF communication strategies. UNICEF is using these media not only to gain global support for its mandate but also as an interactive tool to influence attitudes, beliefs and behaviours.

24. Although access to the electronic media remains much greater in industrialized countries, the developing world is catching up. A recent independent study commissioned by UNICEF noted that almost every household in the industrialized world has at least one television set; in India there is now one television for every three homes; and in China at least 280 million homes have a television, with 60,000 sets purchased each day. The media environment also has seen sharp increases in informal and semi-formal video distribution channels. Changes in television technology, such as the replacement of analogue by digital signals, is expected to cause a further proliferation of channels.

25. At the same time, radio - an important medium for reaching key audiences - is undergoing a renaissance. Developments in radio delivery systems, such as digital audio broadcasting via satellite, have the potential to improve reception quality and attract previously unreached audiences. These developments will increase greatly the amount of information available to viewers and listeners. They will also increase audience segmentation as the number of channels grows rapidly.

26. Increased air time has expanded demand for programmes, including those on UNICEF issues, and narrowcasting makes it easier to reach target audiences. However, the task of working with media has also become more complex and resource-intensive. In addition, the increasing privatization of media means that many UNICEF offices have to consider paying for air time. Working with broadcasters requires increased research and more frequent contact with editors, producers and programme planners. In response to these trends, the last decade has seen a significant shift in UNICEF communication work, moving from largely centrally-originated print and film production to a more multi-media oriented approach that focuses on partnerships, targeted story development, co-productions and distribution of "raw materials" for finalization closer to the end-users. At the same time, communication in UNICEF has become more decentralized to meet the demand for country- and culture-specific strategies, with a greater emphasis on advocacy and social mobilization.

27. The most significant change has been in television. The priority given to television by UNICEF has increased markedly in the past 10 years. The organization has become an international source of high-quality footage on children's issues, much of which is packaged and provided as "B-roll" or background material for broadcast use. Documentary footage, features and programmes are produced for specific events and television coverage is a key element in the launch of major UNICEF advocacy initiatives and in emergencies. Field offices and National Committees produce or co-produce their own television materials when appropriate, and often adapt centrally produced video footage for their own broadcasters. UNICEF also produces inexpensive public service announcements on child rights and survival issues that are broadcast by television stations worldwide on a pro-bono basis. In the future, UNICEF will increase its work with news and current affairs programmes.

28. With limited resources in a high-cost industry, UNICEF is and will continue to shift its focus from in-house productions to partnerships with television broadcasters to produce child-related documentaries, news coverage and programmes for children. Input into these co-productions usually consists of assistance with story ideas, information, contacts, logistical support on the ground and occasionally, a modest amount of seed money. UNICEF also engages in advocacy partnerships that bring broadcasters together to sponsor special days or themes that focus attention on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and on children’s participation.

29. Animation has a unique quality that enables it to reach across cultural and linguistic boundaries. Several successful animation projects have been developed that draw attention to the situation of girls in South Asia, discuss children’s health issues in Latin America and address gender discrimination issues and HIV/AIDS prevention in Africa. To support this effort, partnerships have been established with the animation industry, including a consortium to produce pro-bono animation spots on child rights.

30. The emergence of the World Wide Web has dramatically enhanced the potential of the Internet as a communication medium. UNICEF uses the Internet for advocacy, education and fund-raising and is exploring its usefulness as a means for distributing photographic and video materials. The UNICEF home page currently offers several thousand English, French and Spanish pages with the aim of extending the advocacy outreach of UNICEF material globally. Major publications, current press releases, key information on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and a search facility are available online, and in future more such materials will be placed on the Web. In a complementary manner, UNICEF internal global communication is being enhanced by the introduction of an Intranet for knowledge and information dissemination. For example, Executive Board members have the opportunity to use this Intranet site to retrieve advance copies of documents six weeks prior to the start of each session.

31. To date, 10 country offices and 16 National Committees for UNICEF are maintaining their own Websites in a variety of languages, with more offices going online. As more geographically remote parts of UNICEF come on the Internet, the need for coordination to achieve consistent design and content will become more acute. The inter-divisional Electronic Information Committee, established by the Executive Director in 1996, provides organization-wide guidelines on Web development. The continuous geographical and technological expansion of the Internet opens great potential for the UNICEF communication strategy and will also require increased global coordination.

B. Print

32. Publications support the organization's advocacy, knowledge-sharing and resource mobilization efforts. They present policies, perspectives and strategies for children in a comprehensive manner. The editorial and research work conducted for major publications feeds the overall information effort and provides material for the development of television, print journalism and electronic products.

33. In keeping with the decentralized nature of UNICEF communication efforts, a range of publications is produced by headquarters, the International Child Development Centre (ICDC), regional and country offices and National Committees for UNICEF. Headquarters publications, produced in close consultation with the Office of the Executive Director, articulate corporate policy on priority issues for global advocacy, experience exchange and fund-raising. ICDC publications draw on research carried out at the Centre and in conjunction with international research institutions. Field offices produce advocacy, programme and fund-raising publications on children’s issues at the regional and national levels. Field offices and National Committees also adapt UNICEF material produced elsewhere for country-specific needs and in local languages.

34. A headquarters Publications Review Committee (PRC) coordinates and monitors the quality and cost-effectiveness of UNICEF publications. The PRC, chaired by a Deputy Executive Director, meets twice a year to review proposals for all publications originating in New York and at ICDC. Similar review committees also are being created in regional offices to oversee publication programmes in the regions. See the annex for further details on the UNICEF publications policy.

C. Channels for interpersonal communication

35. Interpersonal communication is a vital component of the UNICEF communication strategy. When access to mass media channels is either limited or not available, interpersonal communication is needed to convey information and to teach new skills. But more importantly, interpersonal communication plays a critical role in influencing behaviour and will often be an essential supplement to other communication channels if new attitudes and behaviours are to be successfully learned.

36. UNICEF supports programmes which deliver information through interpersonal channels in most developing countries. These programmes aim to inform people and to influence their behaviour through face-to-face communication using health workers, teachers and others as networks for outreach to the local level. The communication impact is reinforced by using community role models to convey the information, ensuring greater impact on behaviour.

D. Communication through participatory learning

37. The UNICEF communication policy stresses that effective communication necessarily is a two-way process that draws on the knowledge and experience of participants. It involves various target audiences in actual problem-solving and encourages participants not only to define and express their views but to develop, through critical analysis, their own solutions. It is a process realized through the work of educators, teachers, community health and development workers and other professionals who facilitate communication towards attitudinal and behavioural development and change.

38. Participatory learning is also the basis for education for development. UNICEF believes that just as young people have a right to information through the mass media, they also have a right to learning through which they can examine, discuss and explore relevant issues and concerns. Many UNICEF communication activities incorporate this strategy by supporting the work of teachers, educators and youth leaders; by promoting the production of relevant publications; and through the development of a special Website ("Voices of Youth") for intercultural dialogue among young people.

E. Traditional communication channels

39. The strength of traditional communication is that it builds on existing social networks, support systems and culturally relevant patterns of learning. The range of indigenous communication channels is wide and these channels reflect the uniqueness of each culture and the traditions that guide local normative behaviour for finding information and dispensing advice. However, a major challenge to working with traditional media is that it is not always easy to convey messages and stories to theatre and puppetry groups, folk artists and others without losing the integrity of the message. Without a strong monitoring mechanism, distortion can result. Nonetheless, UNICEF incorporates indigenous communication mechanisms whenever possible in its communication strategy.

III. Audience research, monitoring and evaluation

40. Much of the work of UNICEF in evaluating communication efforts tends to be formative in nature and centres on assessing communication processes and activities. At the country level, this involves supporting Governments, media agencies and NGOs in evaluations. The decentralized nature of communication within UNICEF encourages the selection of cost-efficient channels and a variety of media. It also supports the development of appropriate materials and of participatory communication processes. The organization's unique global network of communication professionals in field offices and National Committees facilitates this process.

41. Audience research activities are well established within UNICEF. Different methodologies at various organizational levels are used to target and monitor communication programmes. These include public opinion polls; media monitoring research; baseline media surveys; knowledge, attitude and practice studies; focus group discussions; participant observations; and in-depth interviews. A special UNICEF programme of audience research training has been developed with the BBC World Service for use by field offices and counterparts.

42. There are, however, special challenges in evaluating the impact of communication activities, particularly those aimed at changing attitudes and behaviours. It is possible to develop both quantitative and qualitative instruments to measure the impact of small and highly targeted interventions based on communication, but isolating their effects is more complicated. The target audiences for two-way dialogue and communication messages are subject to many different influences, so partitioning the role of information and motivation as components of communication is inherently difficult. As the scope of UNICEF programmes becomes wider at the country, regional and global levels, the development of valid and useful indicators is also a challenge. In the future, this is an area of evaluation activity which will require more methodological research both within UNICEF and the development communication community in general. The Division of Communication and the Programme Division, as well as regional and field communication staff, have a responsibility and interest in this area, but the leadership role for evaluating the overall impact of communication efforts, as in all evaluation activities in UNICEF, rests with the Evaluation, Policy and Planning Division.

IV. Functional accountability at country, region and headquarters levels

43. Given the broad framework of communication for child rights outlined above, efforts in this field require an approach that is both comprehensive and specifically targeted. All efforts must be coordinated so that the UNICEF message is clear and compelling, from the global to the local level. The structure of accountability in communication reflects the decentralized nature of the organization, with responsibility placed at the level closest to the target audiences.

A. Country level

44. Communication functions at the country level are carried out in close collaboration with Governments, civil society partners and local media. These functions include the following:

(a) Ensuring that communication is integrated into the country programme planning process so that during the implementation phase, communication activities are directly linked with programme activities;

(b) Integrating a comprehensive communication situation analysis into the overall country situation analysis;

(c) Providing information support to headquarters and National Committees for UNICEF and the media in donor countries for the development of advocacy and fund-raising materials;

(d) Providing training in communication for counterparts, in cooperation with regional offices;

(e) Monitoring and evaluating communication activities within country programmes;

(f) Building alliances and partnerships with the wider United Nations system and with local communication organizations, the media, institutions and associations, as well as increasing national capacity through training, supplies or equipment, logistics and quality control;

(g) Producing publications, photographs, videos and other materials, using local languages as appropriate;

(h) Organizing special events at the national or local level for advocacy, resource mobilization or other such purposes;

(i) Coordinating, commissioning and conducting communication research.

B. Regional level

45. UNICEF communication personnel at the regional level maintain a network not only of UNICEF country office staff but also of communication specialists working in countries throughout the region. The regional officers, therefore, act as clearinghouses for accumulated knowledge within their regions and are able to present proposals and recommendations based on this broad network. This helps to ensure the optimal outcome for UNICEF work throughout the regions. Their specific responsibilities include the following:

(a) Providing support for and coordination of communication strategies between country offices and developing regional communication strategies;

(b) Reviewing the communication component of country programmes elaborated by country offices;

(c) Providing technical assistance to country offices, as needed, on communication issues, particularly during the planning of country programmes and projects;

(d) Serving as liaison and channels of communication between country offices in the region and headquarters;

(e) Developing strategies of communication to influence both legislation in the region and public policy on action for children;

(f) Building alliances and partnerships with regional media and communication organizations and institutions, with particular emphasis on working with other United Nations agencies;

(g) Producing appropriate materials in the major regional languages for general information purposes or on particular issues relevant to the region;

(h) Developing and conducting training in communication for staff at all levels;

(i) Participating in regional publications review committees to monitor the consistency of the UNICEF message and expenditures on publications in the region;

(j) Gathering and preparing regional human interest and success stories for the media and National Committees on children’s and women’s issues, programme activities and other priority concerns.

C. Headquarters

46. The communication functions at UNICEF headquarters include the following:

(a) Formulating and monitoring communication policy guidelines and developing the long-term strategic direction for communication;

(b) Providing policy frameworks and setting standards for the use of communication through such publications as the Information Manual and Book D of the Policy and Procedure Manual on social mobilization and communication for change;

(c) Liaising with National Committees for UNICEF, the Regional Office for Europe and field offices;

(d) Liaising with the Joint United Nations Information Committee and the wider United Nations system to monitor, coordinate and present a comprehensive and coherent UNICEF message;

(e) Coordinating communication activities related to emergency situations in order to devise comprehensive and immediate efforts in donor countries and to help initiate or support strategies within affected countries;

(f) Organizing and coordinating media relations for the Office of the Executive Director;

(g) Producing communication products (publications, photos, videos, exhibits, etc.) and developing and maintaining a library of photographs and video footage;

(h) Presenting information about the situation of children in developing countries and in interesting and engaging ways to journalists of the international press corps based at the United Nations and elsewhere in order to get media coverage of UNICEF issues, and establishing other global media partnerships;

(i) Providing information to field offices and National Committees for UNICEF on emerging national and international issues;

(j) Ensuring up-to-date knowledge on the cost and impact of the changing global media environment through audience research and evaluation.

47. A UNICEF Global Communication Team (GCT) was established in 1997 with a secretariat based in the Division of Communication. The team is made up of the Directors of the Division of Communication and Programme Division; representatives from each of the regional management teams (including all the regional communication officers) and the chairperson of the National Committee Information Workshop. GCT acts as an advisory group for the development and coordination of global communication policies and strategies, ensures the integration of communication into the programming process and provides a forum for discussion of the latest communication trends and issues.

V. Human resources

48. From its earliest days, UNICEF has used communication for advocacy, behavioural change and fund-raising. Over the past decade, UNICEF has seen a major growth in the importance of the role of communication strategies in country programmes. To meet the future challenges of a modern communication strategy, the communication skills of all UNICEF staff need to be strengthened.

49. At the field level, the communication officer is most often responsible for national communication strategies and activities. This responsibility involves all aspects of communication, from working with the local media to organizing communication training for counterparts to developing communication programmes for sectoral support. Communication officers also have a responsibility to feed information about the country programme to regional offices and headquarters in support of fund-raising and advocacy activities. Technological advances, the broadening scope of communication in UNICEF and not least the globalization of communication pose significant challenges to the organization’s staff. A dynamic and adequate human resources policy in this area is therefore required if UNICEF is to realize its full potential in communication. The Divisions of Communication and Human Resources, in collaboration with the regional officers, have undertaken a review of the skills profile of communication staff and revised generic job descriptions the better to reflect future requirements.

VI. Recommendation

50. The Executive Director recommends that the Executive Board adopt the following draft recommendation:

The Executive Board

1. Endorses document E/ICEF/1998/10 on the UNICEF communication strategy as a broad policy framework for UNICEF communication activities, including the continuing efforts of UNICEF to improve research and evaluation capacities and the communication functions for country, regional and headquarters levels;

2. Supports the approach outlined in the policy, which defines UNICEF communication functions as including information, advocacy, behavioural development and change, and social and resource mobilization;

3. Encourages the Executive Director to intensify UNICEF efforts to strengthen collaboration and partnerships with relevant sectors of the communication field.


Review of UNICEF publications

1. Publications are a crucial channel for raising awareness of children’s and women’s issues and for articulating UNICEF policies, strategies and programmes for improving the survival, development and protection of children worldwide. The editorial and research work carried out for the development of major print publications provides content for other communication materials, including television, print media, exhibitions and electronic products. Major publications are launched by the Executive Director or other senior staff to initiate global action on specific issues. The press launches are often accompanied by audio-visual material to reinforce advocacy or social mobilization on a particular subject. Publications are also used to share knowledge, data and information on children’s issues and are used by expert groups and academic institutions. Increasingly, UNICEF is emphasizing publications for younger audiences that promote tolerance, peace and global interdependence.

2 . As the proposed communication policy makes clear, all UNICEF communication activities are decentralized. Thus, publications are produced not only by UNICEF headquarters but by the International Child Development Centre (ICDC), regional and country offices and National Committees for UNICEF. Flagship publications, produced by headquarters in close consultation with the Executive Office, articulate corporate policy on priority issues. ICDC publications draw upon the research carried out both at the Centre and in conjunction with other international research institutions. Regional and country offices publish materials on regional or national child-related issues. All headquarters publications are produced in English, French and Spanish. The majority are also translated into the other official United Nations languages by regional and field offices. Other headquarters publications are also adapted at the local level for country-specific needs.

Publications Review Committee

3. The UNICEF publications policy is formulated and reviewed by the Publications Review Committee (PRC), which also monitors the coordination, quality control and cost-effectiveness of the UNICEF publication programme at headquarters. The PRC, chaired by a Deputy Executive Director, meets several times a year to discuss the publications policy and review proposals for all publications to be produced by headquarters and ICDC. It considers and approves publication proposals in terms of their purpose and objective, intended audience, potential duplication with existing publications and budget.

4. In an effort to establish a corporate policy and reduce the proliferation of different styles and formats, the PRC has established four categories of UNICEF publications:

(a) Advocacy and fund-raising publications, including booklets, brochures, pamphlets, posters and books, designed to advocate for children and women and UNICEF objectives. They are produced either internally or with commercial publishers, are formally edited to UNICEF corporate standards and are intended for the general public, media, Governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), professional institutions and other appropriate audiences;

(b) Co-publications, which draw upon the experience and knowledge of UNICEF and contribute technical information on child development issues and are intended for technical experts, Governments, development NGOs, academics, research institutions and libraries. They are produced with external publishers, including university presses and other United Nations bodies, and are not necessarily formally edited by UNICEF;

(c) Programme and technical materials classified as "best practices", guidelines or working papers, designed to provide information to UNICEF staff and their counterparts or to serve as documentation for meetings of expert groups and programmers. They are produced in-house with inexpensive pre-printed covers and are the responsibility of the issuing UNICEF office or division. Publications which articulate UNICEF policy in specific programme areas are included in this category, but are produced in a different format;

(d) Training materials produced in-house, mainly by the Programme Group, the Division of Human Resources or the Information Technology Division for the training of UNICEF staff and counterparts.

5. Similar review committees are being established at the regional level in order to oversee regional publications policies and coordinate field office publications.

Headquarters advocacy publications

6. The major publications in the advocacy category include The State of the World's Children (SOWC) report and The Progress of Nations (PON). SOWC is published annually in the six official languages of the United Nations and in some 40 other languages (through UNICEF field offices and National Committees). The preparation of each report is based on a consultative process which draws on UNICEF experience worldwide and the expertise of relevant United Nations bodies, development institutions and NGOs. According to a draft report that reviewed United Nations social "flagship" reports, prepared in late 1997 by the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, SOWC raises the profile of UNICEF and also generates publicity for the United Nations itself. The review saw SOWC as an influential advocacy document and a leading research publication that had been able to advance development policy debates and had significantly influenced both policy and development discourse with respect to children.

7. PON was initiated to monitor progress towards the goals for the year 2000 established by the World Summit for Children. Through lead articles, panels and statistical charts and tables, PON seeks to draw lessons from the successes achieved to date. Different sets of indicators are chosen each year in selected areas, including child health, nutrition, education, family planning, progress for women and civil rights and freedoms. Nations are grouped by region and are ranked according to their progress. The report also focuses on selected issues relating to children living in industrialized countries and has emerged as a major publication for the promotion of child rights.

8. SOWC and PON are launched globally by the Executive Director, in locations chosen for their access to the international media. Field offices and National Committees also hold press conferences and other promotional events. These occasions provides not only wide public exposure to the issues through extensive media coverage but also important opportunities for dialogue with high-level officials and key policy makers. Some regional and country offices produce complementary material to draw attention to local situations. In addition, the launch of SOWC each December allows many National Committees to highlight their greeting card campaigns and boosts general fund-raising efforts. In recent years, UNICEF has been independently evaluating the success of these launches in drawing the attention of the media to children’s issues. The extensive media coverage generated by these launches is due in no small measure to a carefully planned multi-media and multi-lingual strategy; the print publications are reinforced by a press conference, press kit, specially prepared videos and Internet pages in English, French and Spanish.

9. In addition to SOWC and PON, which advocate for children by focusing on key issues, UNICEF headquarters produces a number of publications which describe the activities of the organization and provide financial information on income and expenditure. They include the Annual Report - a summary of the organization's activities during the previous year - which was shortened and revamped in 1997 to reduce costs, sharpen focus and improve the presentation of financial information. The report is a major source of information about UNICEF for Governments, donors, partner agencies, National Committees, NGOs and academic institutions. Also published annually is Facts and Figures, an inexpensive information and fund-raising leaflet that is popular with National Committee volunteers and supporters and relies largely on graphics to present basic facts about UNICEF. UNICEF at a Glance, which is published periodically and provides an overview of the work of the organization, has a shelf life of several years.

10. Also in the advocacy category are such publications as Adjustment with a Human Face, which recorded the social cost paid for the structural adjustment programmes of the 1980s, particularly in Africa, and provided essential documentation for the international effort that led to important modifications in adjustment programmes. The annual “MONEE” report, published by ICDC, highlights the impact on children of the transition to market economies in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The attention which such publications receive serves to increase awareness and assist the process of international dialogue and policy adjustments.

Co-productions with United Nations agencies

11. A priority of the publication programme is to support major international conferences and United Nations initiatives and campaigns on such issues as HIV/AIDS, child labour or land-mines. Many publications are produced jointly or in cooperation with other United Nations bodies to ensure that the particular perspective of UNICEF and its substantive knowledge of children's issues is incorporated. Examples of co-published titles include Children and the Environment, with the United Nations Environment Programme, and The State of the World's Vaccines and Immunization with the World Health Organization (WHO).

12. Facts for Life, published with the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and WHO, is one of the most widely used joint United Nations public health information and communication tools. A recent evaluation noted that more than 15 million copies have been published in 215 languages, and that the publication reaches down to the community level.

Commercial co-publications

13. UNICEF is increasingly working with commercial book publishers in order to reduce production costs, improve outreach and access to bookstores, libraries, sales catalogues, etc., as well as to generate royalty income. While many of the books are for adults and are academic in nature, an increasing number are targeted at younger audiences. Some of the collaborative partnerships are extremely successful. Children Just Like Me was published in 17 countries and as of end-1997, almost 1 million copies had been sold. Its sequel, Celebrations, was published in September 1997 and has already appeared in 11 languages. Other recent commercial publications include Education for Development: A Teachers’ Resource for Global Learning, co-published in France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States, and two publications on the relationship between children and the environment, Children’s Participation and The Environment for Children. I Dream of Peace, a book of drawings, letters and poems by children in the former Yugoslavia, was published commercially in 10 languages in some 20 countries. The book raised public awareness and royalty income was directed to programmes for war-affected children. Co-publishing is growing and contacts with book publishers are generated through participation in book fairs and other initiatives.


14. Target audiences and print runs are carefully determined before commencing work on any publication. Distribution of headquarters publications is decentralized, with bulk orders shipped to the field offices and National Committees. They then establish their own contact lists and distribute the materials locally. A new contact management and distribution software has recently been developed to facilitate audience targeting, inventory control and detailed categorization of materials by themes and languages. The software is also a useful tool for assessing readership, conducting impact evaluations of specific publications and improving cost-effectiveness.

15. Details on the headquarters publication budget, including print runs and cost-savings, were presented in the biennial support budget (E/ICEF/1998/AB/L.1) approved by the Executive Board at its first regular session of 1998.


16. Periodic reviews are carried out to evaluate the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of publications and to eliminate titles that overlap or are no longer relevant to the changing needs of the organization. External reviews by independent experts were carried out in 1982, 1990 and 1996. The 1990 evaluation of UNICEF external relations and the Booz-Allen and Hamilton management study also commented on the publications programme. As a result, the publications programme has been reduced and more stringent processes established to ensure better targeting, outreach through multi-media approaches and cost- effective publishing.

17. The steps taken in 1996 include the establishment of the PRC and the consolidation of the management of all New York publications into the Division of Communication. This resulted in a more cohesive publications policy and an overall reduction of funding for them. In addition, publication of First Call for Children, a quarterly journal, was halted.

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