In its annual State of the World's Children report, UNICEF says half of the world's population of children suffer from poverty, violence or AIDS.
More than one billion children worldwide are suffering from severe hardships that are denying them a healthy and secure upbringing, UNICEF reports.
UNICEF says the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child is routinely violated, and blames governments for their failure to prevent human rights abuses and carry out economic reforms.
UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy says while progress has been made in some areas, overall, countries around the world have failed their children.
"I have seen many things in my 10 years at UNICEF, many great achievements for children but frankly, I have seen many more opportunities missed and deliberate acts of greed and knowing shortsightedness," she said. "The state of the world's children is not what it should be or not what it could be and not what it ought to be, not what we have promised it would be."
Carol Bellamy blames the governments, and urges citizens to become more active in demanding greater accountability from their representatives.
"Childhood is under threat not for mysterious reasons that strain our imaginations, but because of deliberate choices made by governments and others in power," she said. "Poverty does not persist because of nothing. War does not emerge from nowhere. HIV-AIDS does not spread by choice of its own. These are our choices. How we allocate our resources, how we assess the impact of our decisions, how we consider children in our choices, these are the moments that matter."
Although the UNICEF report paints a bleak picture, Carol Bellamy says she is confident that improvements can be made if governments act to change their priorities and reassign their resources.
"Although they may seem intractable, poverty, conflict and AIDS can be curtailed," noted Carol Bellamy. "They can be slowed. They can be bent to our will. Once we decide in favor of protecting childhood, we can accomplish nearly anything."
UNICEF urges governments to meet their commitments under the U.N. Millenium Development Goals of reducing child mortality by two thirds by 2015.