Civil Society and UNICEF partnerships

Published in UNICEF website in April 2003

© © UNICEF/NYHQ2009-1915/Giacomo Pirozzi
In Mali, a group of migrant girls, some with babies, attend a counselling session at a UNICEF-assisted shelter for adolescent girls in Bamako, the capital. The shelter is managed by the local NGO Association pour la Jeunesse et le Developpement du Mali.

CSOs play a critical role in supporting UNICEF efforts to deliver results for children. The majority of partnerships between UNICEF and CSOs take place at country level.

The CSOs that work with UNICEF are infinitely diverse, offering a broad range of specialized knowledge and experience in areas pertaining to children. It is this diversity that produces some of the most innovative and effective achievements for children. The common thread linking UNICEF partnerships with CSOs is the shared objective of realizing children’s rights.

CSOs work with UNICEF on a broad range of child-related issues. Some partnerships, for examle, focus on strengthening child protection systems in relation to violence and sexual abuse, while others implement strategies for improving access to basic heath services for mothers and children. UNICEF works with CSOs to create community-led plans for hygiene improvement and water safety and to esure that all children have access to education. Some CSO partners focus specifically on children whereas others address a range of issues, including poverty, climate change, health, gender equality and violence.

Partnerships between CSOs and UNICEF use numerous strategies to achieve results for children. Many partnerships are formed to carry out programming for children in countries, where the majority of UNICEF’s work takes place. CSOs and UNICEF also work together with communities to engage in advocacy and policy reform and to promote child participation. Some partnerships focus on responding to emergencies or humanitarian crisis, providing basic services to populations in need. Others concentrate on working with governments to ensure they meet child rights obligations. Some CSOs carry out a combination of all of this work, whereas others focus exclusively on a single area.

What is ‘civil society’?

It is difficult to define civil society in a few words, because it involves diverse actors within and across countries. For the purpose of partnerships, UNICEF understands civil society as the sphere of autonomous associations that are independent of the public and for-profit sectors and designed to advance collective interests and ideas. CSOs may be formal or informal, and they work with a broad range of political, legal, economic, social and cultural contexts. They do no represent a unified social force or a coherent set of values; they are as diverse as the people and issues around which they organize.

Types of CSOs include:

  • International and national non-governmental organizations;
  • Community-based organizations;
  • Social movements;
  • Faith-based organizations;
  • Advocacy groups;
  • Trade unions;
  • Women’s groups;
  • Professional voluntary associations;
  • Foundations;
  • Independent media;
  • Social networks;
  • Think-tanks and research institutes.

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