A mother kisses her smiling baby as they wait to be seen at the Kono Government Hospital in the town of Koidu, in Kono District, Eastern Province of Sierra Leone in 2010.

Congress Passes Appropriations for UNICEF

The Omnibus Appropriations for fiscal year 2014 just passed Congress and was signed by the President, securing $132 million for UNICEF – just the amount UNICEF’s supporters were seeking.

The U.S. Fund for UNICEF advocates with the U.S. Congress to secure the U.S. Government’s annual contribution to UNICEF in the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations. This is in addition to private sector fundraising by the U.S. Fund on behalf of UNICEF.

We interviewed Martin Rendón, the U.S Fund’s Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy, to learn more.

Tell us about the funding Congress provides to UNICEF.

The U.S. Capitol

Martin Rendón: Every year, the U.S. Government makes a voluntary contribution to UNICEF. The Administration makes a recommendation and the Congress determines how much to provide in the annual appropriations bill. This money goes to UNICEF’s essential “core” programs in countries across the globe.

What are the challenges to secure this funding?

Rendón: The funding for UNICEF is just one among thousands of programs and activities in the U.S. Federal Budget. In recent years, Congress has encountered delays and setbacks in efforts to reach agreement on overall Federal spending. Last year, for example, Congress was not able to pass any of the regular appropriations bills and across-the-board cuts known as “the sequester” occurred instead.

The Ryan-Murray budget agreement this year allowed the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to move ahead with an Omnibus Appropriations bill to fund the entire U.S. Government. As a result, we were able to successfully advocate for $132 million for UNICEF.

Does UNICEF have bipartisan support?

Rendón: Absolutely! We believe that children in need know no politics. We work with all legislators no matter what the political party. How does the U.S. Fund for UNICEF advocate for UNICEF on Capitol Hill?

“We reach out to and work with legislators on both sides of the aisle.”

Rendón: In Washington, our Office of Public Policy and Advocacy is in direct contact with the key legislators and their staff. But our work depends strongly on all of our great supporters joining our efforts by contacting their Senators and Representatives. You can find our advocacy efforts on our website. The decision-makers need to be persuaded by their constituents  to support UNICEF!

What if my Senator or Representative isn’t on the Appropriations Committee?

Rendón: It doesn’t matter whether or not your Senator or Representative is on the Appropriations Committee or on any other key committee involving an issue of importance to UNICEF. Every Senator and Representative needs to be asked by his or her constituents to contact their colleagues who are making the funding or policy decisions. In effect, we are asking our own legislators to advocate with us. Members of Congress pay attention to each other when their colleagues ask them to weigh in.

So what’s next?

Rendón: We need to gear up for UNICEF’s funding for fiscal year 2015. Once again, we will be seeking to secure $132 million for UNICEF. While the budget certainly will be tight, we hope the $132 million we just obtained for fiscal year 2014 will provide us with momentum for 2015. We want Congress to do it again! Vulnerable children around the world are depending on us. We encourage our supporters to join in our efforts on a variety of pending policy issues, in addition to the funding for UNICEF. Together, we can make a measurable difference in the lives of millions of children!

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