Working with UNICEF in Vietnam

By Julie Dinh

The United Nations Children’s Fund, more commonly known by its acronym, UNICEF, is an organization mandated by the UN General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children's rights across the world and to provide assistance to the most vulnerable children and their families. UNICEF works to help meet children’s basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. UNICEF was created in 1946 in the aftermath of the Second World War and is now active in 190 countries and territories worldwide. Guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it remains one of the UN’s most visible and prominent agencies. The organization is entirely funded through voluntary contributions – most people in Canada have known UNICEF through its successful Halloween trick-or-treat fundraising campaign which has raised over $100 million since it started in 1955.

UNICEF officially set up a country office in Vietnam after the country’s reunification in 1975. In 1990, Vietnam was the first country in Asia, and the second country in the world, to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. With over 26 million children in the country currently, UNICEF Vietnam has several focus areas to ensure that each child is able to reach their full potential: climate change; child survival and development; education; child protection; and social policy and governance. Each section has its own dedicated staff and annual workplans, but sections work collaboratively with each other, other UN agencies, and various other actors (government and nongovernmental) to achieve their goals.

One example of UNICEF Vietnam’s accomplishments is the 2018 launching of a new course on justice for children at Hanoi Law University, the largest and most prominent law school in the country. This course, the first of its kind in Vietnam, had been in development since 2015. UNICEF Vietnam has provided technical and financial support to Hanoi Law University, including the development of course materials, training for key lecturers, and creating extra-curricular opportunities for law students. In its very first run, the course attracted over 100 registered law students and is part of UNICEF’s larger effort to build capacity at all levels to improve equitable access to justice for all children.

In addition, UNICEF is committed to gender equality and integrates gender equality into all areas of work. More specifically, UNICEF identifies four specific areas of focus: ending child marriage; advancing girls’ secondary education; promoting gender-responsive adolescent health; and addressing gender-based violence in emergencies. Currently at UNICEF Vietnam, the agency is working with the United Nations Population Fund and UN Women to collectively work towards preventing child marriage and early unions in Vietnam. Another ongoing project is the “Baby Talk for Dads” campaign, which encourages fathers to be more involved in their children’s development in their early years.


Julie Dinh was called to the bar in Manitoba in 2018