United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)



New York, NY

Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2020):

Revenue: $573,865,026
Expenses: $588,576,039
Assets: $394,704,546


Childrens’ Wellness




Catherine Russell

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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF; formerly the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) is an agency of the United Nations (UN). Its stated mission is to support the health, education, rights, and overall welfare of children around the world. The agency was founded in the aftermath of the Second World War and retains the acronym from the original name. UNICEF initially focused on providing relief to children in the countries most heavily affected by the war, but starting in the 1950s, the agency expanded its scope to crisis-prone and under-developed parts of the world in general. The agency’s headquarters is located in New York City, as is that of its parent organization, the United Nations. 1

Since its inception, UNICEF has operated with significant financial support from both governments and private philanthropists. Public-sector grants make up approximately three-quarters of the agency’s annual income, which exceeded $8.1 billion in 2021. The top funders of UNICEF that year were the governments of the United States, Germany, and the European Union, while the agency’s major non-state backers include the World Bank, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, and the Global Partnership for Education. 2 3

UNICEF has received criticism for going beyond its own stated mission of helping children and providing support to programs that enable abortion, contraception, and LGBT advocacy. While the agency has officially denied financing or advocating for abortion, it has signed onto UN guidelines which endorse legalization of the practice. UNICEF also maintains partnerships with other international organizations which support abortion. Meanwhile, the agency has in its official strategic plan explicitly backed the promotion of LGBT interests as well as educational programs that expose children to information about various sex acts, despite the fact that UN member states have previously rejected these tenets. 4 5 In addition to its involvement in gender and sexuality issues, UNICEF has attempted to interfere with countries’ right to enforce borders and immigration laws: most notably, the agency criticized the Trump administration for implementing a “Remain in Mexico” policy for foreigners crossing the United States southern border without authorization. 6


UNICEF was founded in 1946 to help children in regions affected by the Second World War. Several years later, the agency broadened its mission and launched programs for children around the world. In 1953, UNICEF adopted its current name to reflect this wider set of priorities, and in 1965 the agency received the Nobel Peace Prize. Starting in the 1990s, UNICEF has followed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which claims that governments and international organizations must go beyond crisis relief and implement what it calls “the highest attainable standard” of care to children across the entire world. 7


UNICEF partners with governments and supranational governing structures, as well as advocacy groups and charitable organizations, to promote policies and programs intended to benefit children. The agency’s child survival initiative aims to improve pediatric healthcare (including vaccination) as well as sanitation services and nutrition programs. UNICEF child education priorities include general support for schools, programs for children with disabilities, education access in emergency conditions, and gender issues. 8


UNICEF has come under criticism for appearing to inject controversial social agendas such as legalization of abortion proliferation of contraception in regions of the world with notable opposition to it, and normalization of same-sex relationships and transgenderism into its programs and advocacy. The agency has repeatedly denied endorsing or enabling abortion at any point in its history. UNICEF has participated in the international Safe Motherhood Initiative, a program which ostensibly combats illness and death due to pregnancy and childbirth but also endorses abortion as a valid option for mothers. (Another partner of the initiative is the International Planned Parenthood Federation, a leading global abortion promoter.) 9 10 11

UNICEF published a discussion paper from 2021 that called on governments to introduce rating systems for pornographic media that might enable certain sexually explicit imagery to be approved for viewing by children because those materials could qualify as “vital sexuality education materials.” 12

A Catholic UN watchdog group, the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM), has criticized the U.S. government for providing $37 million to Education Cannot Wait, a UNICEF project. 13 C-FAM said the 2021 funding supported Education Cannot Wait’s endorsement of sexually explicit practices and liberal views about LGBT social norms, and implied that Education Cannot Wait promotes abortion. 14 C-FAM’s accusations were based on language in the “Education Cannot Wait: Gender Strategy 2018-2021” document, which was created in partnership with various nonprofit and governmental groups, including the U.S. Agency for International Development. 15

UNICEF also inserted itself into other overtly political issues, such as border security and immigration law enforcement in the United States. In 2021, the agency issued a statement criticizing a policy, commonly known as “Remain in Mexico,” which was intended to keep illegal border crossers from staying in the United States while their asylum claims were reviewed. 16 UNICEF also published a report on alleged “misinformation” in the media and its purported impact on children. The report blamed internet trolls and other bad-faith actors for public concerns about issues l­­ike the origin of the COVID-19 virus, COVID-19 vaccine mandates, demographic change in Western countries, and other topics. 17


Catherine Russell is the executive director of UNICEF. She assumed the role in February 2022, coming directly from a position in the Biden administration, where she was an assistant to the President and the director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel. Russell also worked for the Obama administration, where she held several lower-level positions including deputy assistant to the President before being appointed as the ambassador for global women’s issues at the Department of State in 2013. Between her two stints in Democratic administrations, Russell accepted a teaching fellowship at Harvard University. She has also held board positions with several nonprofit organizations, including Women for Women International and the Thompson Reuters Foundation’s “Trust Women” initiative. Russell received a law degree from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Boston College. 18

Daniel Couture is the chief information officer at UNICEF. He spent nearly three decades with the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, holding multiple information technology executive positions at the company. Prior to joining UNICEF, Couture spent two years as the chief information officer for the Pfizer spin-off Zoetis, an animal medical firm. 19

El Cid Butuyan is the director of the UNICEF ethics office. He previously spent more than 15 years working on legal affairs at the World Bank. He has also worked for the Green Climate Fund, an environmentalist nonprofit, and the Asian Infrastructure and Development Bank, a major international financial institution. Butuyan received his law doctorate from Harvard University, and previously attended the University of the Philippines. 20


In 2021, UNICEF received a total of more than $8.1 billion in grants and other revenue. The agency’s income has continually grown since 2016, with close to 75 percent of funds coming from the United States, Germany, European Union members, and other nations. Most non-government support came from various national funds intended to raise money for UNICEF, but the World Bank Group and Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization provided approximately $451 million and $259 million, respectively. The agency’s parent institution, the UN, provided just under $200 million through its various funding programs. 21

In 2019, the U.S. government gave its highest level of funding to UNICEF of any year prior. The funding included $25 million for Education Cannot Wait. 22


  1. “UNICEF.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessed November 13, 2022.
  2. “UNICEF.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessed November 13, 2022.
  3. “Funding Compendium 2021.” UNICEF. Accessed November 13, 2022.
  4. “UNICEF and Abortion.” Life Issues Institute. January 23, 2015. Accessed November 13, 2022.
  5. Stefano Gennarini. “UNICEF to Promote Abortion, LGBT Rights, and Comprehensive Sexuality Education.” Center for Family & Human Rights. August 5, 2021. Accessed November 13, 2022.
  6. [1]“UNICEF expresses concern over reimplementation of Trump-era ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy.” WIO News. December 10, 2021. Accessed November 13, 2022.
  7. “UNICEF.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessed November 13, 2022.
  8. “What we do.” UNICEF. Accessed November 13, 2022.
  9. “UNICEF and Abortion.” Life Issues Institute. January 23, 2015. Accessed November 13, 2022.
  10. Stefano Gennarini. “UNICEF to Promote Abortion, LGBT Rights, and Comprehensive Sexuality Education.” Center for Family & Human Rights. August 5, 2021. Accessed November 13, 2022.
  11. Michael Lipka. “Africans among the most morally opposed to contraception.” Pew Research Center. April 16, 2014. Accessed January 24, 2023.
  12. Day, Emma. “Digital Age Assurance Tools and Children’s Rights Online across the Globe: A Discussion Paper.” UNICEF Child Rights and Business Unit, April 2021.
  13. Alexis Fragosa, “Biden increases contribution to pro-abortion UNICEF program,” Center for Family & Human Rights. January 20, 2022. Accessed November 14, 2022.
  14. Press release, “United States announces $37 million contribution to Education Cannot Wait,” United States Agency for International Development. September 27, 2021. Accessed November 14, 2022.
  15. Education Cannot Wait, ECW Gender Strategy 2018-2021. Accessed November 14, 2022.
  16. [1]“UNICEF expresses concern over reimplementation of Trump-era ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy.” WIO News. December 10, 2021. Accessed November 13, 2022.
  17. Philip N. Howard et al. “Digital misinformation / disinformation and children.” UNICEF Office of Global Insight and Policy. August 2021. Accessed November 13, 2022.
  18. “Catherine Russell.” UNICEF. Accessed November 13, 2022.
  19. “Daniel Couture.” UNICEF. Accessed November 13, 2022.
  20. “El Cid Butuyan.” UNICEF. Accessed November 13, 2022.
  21. “Funding Compendium 2021.” UNICEF. Accessed November 13, 2022.
  22. Mark Engman, “U.S. government support for UNICEF grows,” UNICEF. December 20, 2019. Accessed November 14, 2022.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: August 1, 1949

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2020 Jun Form 990 $573,865,026 $588,576,039 $394,704,546 $257,310,303 N $571,213,232 $0 $1,508,991 $6,025,672
    2019 Jun Form 990 $538,517,959 $520,829,209 $406,758,577 $255,799,733 Y $535,776,656 $0 $1,400,615 $3,922,287 PDF
    2018 Jun Form 990 $567,056,368 $547,800,710 $247,213,249 $115,248,285 Y $564,169,559 $0 $1,133,127 $2,801,905 PDF
    2017 Jun Form 990 $473,933,337 $476,195,828 $231,115,739 $118,977,927 N $471,461,166 $0 $950,662 $4,144,600 PDF
    2016 Jun Form 990 $553,250,245 $545,844,767 $216,632,370 $102,486,376 N $550,839,158 $0 $905,327 $3,657,638 PDF
    2015 Jun Form 990 $500,119,774 $529,274,354 $236,806,150 $129,130,982 N $497,033,423 $0 $1,361,484 $1,871,746 PDF
    2014 Jun Form 990 $475,591,950 $413,154,382 $258,125,021 $120,537,127 N $470,961,231 $0 $2,800,538 $2,088,419 PDF
    2013 Jun Form 990 $310,900,028 $297,954,807 $157,177,108 $83,096,611 N $307,005,138 $0 $1,875,678 $1,902,684 PDF
    2012 Jun Form 990 $211,543,386 $204,636,266 $143,789,814 $83,170,988 N $208,510,041 $0 $728,597 $3,099,724 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

    125 Maiden Lane
    New York, NY 10038-4713