A 2024 New Year Message from Elizabeth Lule, Executive Director of ECDAN

Dear ECDAN Partners,

Happy New Year! I hope you are having a great start to 2024. 

Elizabeth Lule, Executive Director, ECDAN
Elizabeth Lule, Executive Director, ECDAN

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support and commitment to young children and their families and to reflect on our collective work in 2023. I greatly appreciate what we have accomplished together and the support from our funders. Your active engagement in the network has helped grow the ECD movement and achieve important victories for young children and their caregivers.

However, we have so much more to do together as young children across the world are increasingly facing the polycrisis with ongoing wars and growing geo-political tensions, climate change, natural disasters, forced displacements, food insecurity, economic instability, and rising inequalities that cause lifelong devastating effects on the lives of young children.

I want to share that the Executive Leadership Council recently approved ECDAN’s new five-year strategy. I want to thank all those who advised, participated, and provided support and feedback to identify shared goals and define the network’s collective impact. Special thanks to Professor Mark Tomlinson who developed the ECD Landscape Review and to our partner Grand Challenges Canada for supporting this work.

Throughout 2023, we continued to advocate for prioritizing the needs of young children and their caregivers. In December, we scored a major breakthrough in climate change when the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change called for “an expert dialogue on the disproportionate impact of climate change on children and relevant policy solutions.” It is the first time in 30 years that COP negotiators have mentioned and acted on climate change’s impact on young children.

ECDAN and its partners successfully mobilized support to advance ECD in the global agenda, including co-organizing several events at the 78th United Nations General Assembly and together with Theirworld, coordinating a G20 letter that garnered the support of more than 100 organizations.

In November, the network celebrated the first anniversary and uptake of  the Tashkent Declaration and plans to implement the Global Partnership Strategy. We welcomed the release of the UNICEF Early Childhood Development Vision for Every Child and engaged with various G20 groups and the government of India to elevate high-quality childcare. We welcomed and shared widely the WHO/UNICEF global report on children with developmental disabilities to guide our work on ensuring equity and inclusion.

Through our Global Childcare Campaign, we built bridges with the women’s economic empowerment and labor movements at the Women Deliver Conference to advocate for government investments in childcare, which is a key factor in advancing early childhood development, gender equity, and economic growth. Through a donor collaborative initiative, NurtureFirst was launched in December to build support systems for home-based childcare providers at the global, regional, national, and local levels. At the country level, analytical work continued to inform policy reforms, and select countries started receiving funding through the World Bank Childcare Incentive Fund.

The work to support parents and caregivers continued to gain momentum with the launch of the global online platform in June for the Global Initiative to Support Parents, followed by a regional meeting to address the growing challenges in the Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean, and North Africa regions.

The network worked with governments, UN agencies, nongovernmental groups, and cross-sectoral stakeholders to share knowledge and best practices. In July, ECDAN partnered with Reimagined Futures and BRAC to hold a workshop for the members of the Bangladesh ECD in Emergencies in Cox’s Bazar to discuss systems thinking as a tool to strengthen humanitarian intervention. In October, we partnered with the government of Rwanda and others to discuss measuring ECD outcomes at the country level for Eastern and Southern Africa. The Knowledge Fellows program, for the third year, supported early-career ECD professionals from the global south with mentoring, networking, and project development.

Finally, we celebrated the network’s growth to more than 300 partners from over 160 countries and growing online followers and participants.  

In 2024, we will translate our new strategy into ambitious implementation plans to fiercely advocate for increased investments in the early years. We will strengthen the capacity of grassroots advocates to generate public demand, ensure inclusion of children with developmental delays and disabilities, address the impacts of climate change, and work closely with our humanitarian partners and coalitions to support parents and address the needs of children affected by the ongoing wars and conflict. We will continue to promote systems thinking to support scaling efforts and to focus on quality, data, evidence, and measurement.

Going forward, we must act with urgency, find bold solutions, and work differently because business as usual will not deliver for millions of young children facing adversity. The challenges are beyond what each one of us can tackle alone. Let us deepen our connections, amplify our collective impact, and face the challenges head-on in the true spirit of collaboration and coordination. Our collective passion and commitment will sustain our hopes and courage founded in our shared belief that investing in the early years is the foundation for a just and equal world.