Within the UN system, UNICEF's comparative advantage relates to its field-based structure. At the end of 2002, 86% of UNICEF's 8083 staff members were located in its 199 field offices, supported by 7 regional offices. UNICEF's headquarters is in New York. In 2002, professional staff numbered 3458, representing 165 different nationalities: 68% were from developing countries, and 45% were female.

UNICEF is governed by an executive board consisting of representatives of 36 countries who serve on a rotational basis. The board is responsible for overall policy and for authorizing receipt and expenditure of funds. The executive director is appointed by the secretary-general of the UN in consultation with the board. The executive director appoints all other staff.

UNICEF has established a unique structure of supporting bodies in most industrialized countries. Known as National Committees for UNICEF, in 2001 there were 37 largely autonomous organizations with an important role of advocacy and fund-raising. They each have a formal relationship with UNICEF and are responsible for fund-raising operations in their own countries, public information and development education, and promotion of UNICEF concerns, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and follow-up of the Children's Summit. Much of their work is supported through voluntary action.

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