The International Organizations Research Group, the new research arm of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), has released its first report, The United Nations Children’s Fund: Women or Children First? (available in full in *.pdf).
Unfortunately, it’s feminists and not women or children who come first at UNICEF today. In its glory days from 1983 to 1995, UNICEF championed simple measures—primarily, growth monitoring, oral rehydration, breastfeeding, and immunization—that directly saved the lives of 25 million children. In 1995 long-time director Jim Grant died, and radical feminist Carol Bellamy took over. Under Bellamy the goals of UNICEF have focused less on the welfare of children than on sexual and gender issues. Thus, the number one priority of UNICEF is now the education of girls, even where more girls than boys are enrolled in school (as in Latin America and the Caribbean). The top five priorities of the organization also include HIV/AIDS and the fight against discrimination, issues that are relevant to children’s welfare in the way all social issues are relevant to children’s welfare, but were evidently chosen as a way of enabling the organization to open new fronts in a generalized war by activists to transform international norms regarding sex and gender. Some of the goals of that struggle, like abortion, the liberation of women from family and motherhood and the right of young people to sexual activity, have very little connection to child welfare. UNICEF nonetheless supports them.
So what does one conclude? One conclusion is that agencies set up to further highminded goals and representing only themselves and other similar agencies fall prey to ideological and bureaucratic interests. As such, they lose sight of the concrete universally-accepted goals they were originally set up to further. Another is that in bureaucracies and among ideological activists the personal will always trump the humanitarian. Sexual liberation is relevant to the personal lives of human rights activists. Oral rehydration is not, and sexual restraint is relevant in a way they don’t like. It follows that over time attention will shift from dull stuff like oral rehydration to exciting stuff like sex, and whether something actually helps people live better and healthier lives will be much less important than whether it contributes to a world in which policymakers can do as they wish, in private as well as public life.