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McUnicef Partnership - Good For Kids?
The Marriage of UNICEF and McDonald's. Photo: Eliza Smith Vallette
Let us introduce two bedfellows of surpassing strangeness.
McDonald's is the world's largest retailer of fast food and fast food culture. Its Big Macs and Happy Meals are popular, but its food is high in fat, sugar and calories, and a cause of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. McDonald's is a controverial symbol of Americanism and globalization, and it targets children with an onslaught of clever advertising. Its purpose, as required by law, is to make money.
UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund is the world's foremost advocate for children. It's mission is "to save children's lives and build children's futures" and is dedicated to the well-being, including good health and nutrition, of children everywhere.
Now UNICEF and McDonald's have agreed "to team up to raise money on behalf of the world's children."
This perilous partnership is to be launched on November 20, 2002 - a day that used to be known in Unicef circles as the anniversary of the 1989 adoption of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. UNICEF now calls November 20th "McDonald's World Children's Day."
This unlikely, unhealthy McPartnership includes money-raising stunts in 121 countries McDonald's says that "by simply visiting McDonald's on November 20th, you can bring extra value to the lives of millions of children in need around the world." Well, "simply visiting" won't actually do the trick.
In France, two Euros will be donated from every sale of a Big Mac. The donations go not to UNICEF but to building Ronald McDonald's Houses. Same for El Salvador, where donations go to Ronald McDonald House Charities. In Croatia, Bolivia and Cyprus, portions of proceeds from Happy Meals go to orphanages, toys and cancer charities. In China, children who buy a Big Mac get "exclusive" access to an Internet concert.
McDonald's World Children's Day and the McUNICEF partnership may raise money for children's programs. It will probably increase sales at McDonald's, as it gives kids another reason to nag their parents into letting them eat at McDonald's.
But in the long run, the partnership is bad for UNICEF and the children they work for, because it undermines its credibility as the world's foremost advocate for children.
Unicef's Executive Director, Ms. Carol Bellamy, has warned that "it is dangerous to assume that the goals of the private sector are somehow synonymous with those of the United Nations, because most emphatically they are not." Ms. Bellamy should heed her own warning.
For more information, see: www.earthrights.org/un; http://www.corpwatch.org/campaigns/PCC.jsp?topicid=101; www.commercialert.org