Each year, UNICEF USA enlists supporters from across the nation to help give voice to children around the world. Our goal is to secure the U.S. government’s annual $132.5 million appropriation to UNICEF. These unrestricted funds enable UNICEF to respond quickly to emergencies, finance innovation and invest in long-term solutions for kids.
Capitol Hill advocacy
On April 4, 2017, nearly 350 UNICEF USA supporters from 32 states convened in Washington, D.C., making it the largest advocacy day in our history. In an effort that demonstrated the power of collective action, UNICEF USA Board members, student club leaders, NextGen volunteer members, Congressional Action Team leaders and staff held 176 meetings with members of Congress.
In these meetings, and in 15,744 letters sent that day, constituents asked their Senators and Representatives to vote in favor of maintaining the U.S. government’s annual contribution to UNICEF for the federal fiscal year 2018. Martin Rendon, UNICEF USA’s Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy, noted that he had “… never seen a more impressive day of outreach, engagement and activism with the House and Senate offices on behalf of UNICEF and the world’s children.”
An American movement for kids
Part of our mission involves educating the public on issues that affect the world’s children. Giving voice to children’s urgent global needs in the halls of Congress is crucial to UNICEF USA’s work. It forms the basis of our American movement for kids. The United States has traditionally provided more unrestricted funding to UNICEF than any other government, offering lifesaving assistance that reflects American values of caring for the world’s most vulnerable and our long history of global leadership on children’s issues.
After all, it was Americans who formed the first “national committee” to support UNICEF a year after its founding in 1946.
Fabienne Pierre, a UNICEF NextGen member and Congressional Action Team leader from New York, noted that “when it comes to children and their basic needs, there is no party line. There’s no distinction between Democrats or Republicans; bipartisanship is essential.” Fabienne was one of 42 members of NextGen to attend Advocacy Day, and was one of the many young State Leaders who led the charge on Capitol Hill.
In addition to NextGen members, 172 students took part in congressional visits and made an impact on both sides of the aisle. Nadin Abu Khalaf, a student from Southern Alamance High School in North Carolina, spoke for many UNICEF USA supporters when she attested to “… the power that we have in our hands to make change.”
Many Hill Day participants encountered broad bipartisan support for UNICEF. The New Jersey team conducted six visits that day, one of which included the Republican Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Representative Frelinghuysen expressed support for UNICEF and its work around the globe, offering his own ideas on how best to work together to put children first. After the meeting, he even tweeted a photo of the group, affirming that UNICEF provides critical support for the eradication of global poverty. It is because of moments like this that our hashtag #Act4Children, which we used during our four-day Annual Meeting (including our Student Summit, General Session, and Hill Day) was trending on Twitter on April 4.
The success of Hill Day became evident when Congress completed action on the Omnibus Appropriations Bill for FY 2017, which was signed into law in May. Despite requested budget cuts in many categories of federal foreign aid, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees agreed to sustain UNICEF’s $132.5 million in funding, further reinforcing bipartisan, bicameral support for UNICEF’s lifesaving work.
UNICEF USA has achieved such legislative success, year after year, because of the vast array of constituents across the country who dedicate their time, resources and voices to children, helping to ensure they receive the support they need to survive and thrive. The fact that the welfare of the world’s children continues to rise above parties and politics gives us hope for the future — and gratitude that American policy makers and legislators continue to put children first.