Terms of Reference – Asia Pacific Community of Practice: Early Childhood Development (ECD), Climate Change and Environmental Issues
‘Our climate is our children’s future. Their future is shaped by our actions now.’
Since 2019, ARNEC has emphasised the need to look closely at the interconnecting impacts of environmental hazards and climate change on the growth and development – and rights – of young children. ARNEC led the development of the 2019 Ha Noi Call to Action which called for multi-sectoral approaches and partnerships to promote sustainable, nurturing environments for young children.
As the most vulnerable persons in the world’s most vulnerable populations, young children will bear the brunt of the negative impacts brought by climate change. The World Health Organization highlights how climate change and environmental hazards have the greatest impact on children’s growth and development as well as the wellbeing of pregnant women and foetuses (World Health organisation, 2019). These impacts wills increase as millions of children born in this year will face, on average, 2-7 times more extreme weather events than their grandparents, including more heatwaves, floods, droughts, crop failures, typhoons/hurricanes, and wildfires (Save the Children, 2021), affecting their nurturing care. These extreme weather events have intensified child poverty and vulnerability and are directly causing climate-induced migration and displacement. (Save the Children, 2021). This vulnerability has been further exacerbated by overlapping crises of conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic, and environmental hazards and hazards.
Climate-related disasters wreak havoc on families and communities and increasing toxic stress among young children, which harms their brain development. The loss of livelihoods and increased food insecurity increases child malnutrition and impacts on caregivers’ abilities to keep their children in early childhood education or support their children’s healthcare. As rural communities face climate stress, families relocate to informal urban settlements, which increases children’s exposure to violence, abuse, and exploitation, including child labour, extreme poverty, and reduced access to critical health, education, and psychosocial support services. These damages and disruptions in the early years not only impact the present quality of life of young children but also set the stage for long-term trajectories for individuals, communities, and nations. Failing to address the impacts of climate change to young children undermines the long-term project of climate adaptation and the larger agenda of sustainable development.
With increasing global evidence on the impact of climate change on humanity, there is no doubt young children bear the burdens of climate change. It is urgent to act now post COP26 (see our collaborative Global Call to Action here and the statement on the results of COP26 with Save the Children, ECDAN and UNICEF) and in the lead up to COP27, to ensure that the well-being of young children and ECD are integral to climate actions.
Young children are particularly vulnerable to physical environmental influences due to their uniquely sensitive periods of development. Brain development is most rapid in the early years, and the quality of brain development is moderated by dynamic interactions with the environment (Yousafzai, 2019). More than 1 in 4 deaths of children under 5 years of age are attributable to unhealthy environments (WHO, 2017). Studies have shown that indoor and outdoor pollution, a lack of clean and protective play and recreation spaces and exposure to environmental toxins such as lead and mercury during the pre-natal or early childhood period disrupt the developmental processes of children, increase the risk of noncommunicable diseases, respiratory diseases, infectious diseases and developmental delays that can reduce an individual’s long-term cognitive, socio-emotional and physical potential (WHO, 2017).
ARNEC in partnership with Save the Children and UNICEF supports the right of young children to have a clean, safe and sustainable environment. There is a need to put attention to young children aged 0-8 in terms of both the impact of climate change and other environmental issues on nurturing care, and how investing in early childhood can be key building blocks in supporting climate change and environmental mitigation, adaptation and resilience and sustainable futures. ECD should be at the center of environmental and climate change actions.
There are two mutually reinforcing priority areas of advocacy for ARNEC. One is making environments healthy and fit for young children and this means addressing air pollution, environmental toxins, and providing clean, green protective spaces for young children so that quality ECD outcomes can be achieved. The other is ECD and climate change, which requires strategic and tactical child-rights enabling solutions and partnerships for climate action. Our advocacy is targeting policy makers, especially those who are at the forefront of shaping the scope and direction of climate action and ECD investments, as well as our usual partners for promoting ECD at the global, regional, and country levels.
The role of the community of practice (CoP)
A Community of Practice (CoP) is defined as: “A group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” CoP’s are usually informal, self-organising, and span across departments with members distributed throughout an organisation. To that end, the purpose of this Community of Practice addressing ECD, climate change and other environmental issues is to create a structure that allows ARNEC and its partners to exchange ideas, promote promising practices and build our capability and build common capability in advancing the youngest children’s rights to clean, safe, and sustainable environments in the region and beyond.
This Community of Practice serves as a space where practitioners, policymakers researchers and experts and from across the Asia-Pacific can come together to generate ideas, share knowledge, ask questions, and communicate with others working in the field to co-create, co-produce, and co-deliver knowledge, advocacy and learning in the field of ECD, climate change and environmental hazards
Membership and Structure
An ECD and climate change expert and a representative from Save the Children and UNICEF EAPRO (East Asia and Pacific Regional Office) will act as co-leads for this CoP. The ARNEC secretariat will co-ordinate the CoP. Co-leads are responsible for:
- Facilitating group discussions to ensure that communication is appropriate and respectful;
- Developing the agenda and/or objectives for the subsequent CoP meetings;
- Sending out regular messages to all CoP members about the next meeting/activity; and
- Facilitating inputs to creation of any knowledge product in support of the advocacy on ECD, climate change and other environmental issues.
Membership of the CoP is open to all researchers, experts, policy-makers, and practitioners with an interest in ECD, climate change and other environmental issues within the Asia-Pacific region.
The CoP will on average have an hour-long virtual meeting per month. A ‘call for agenda’ will be done to program a priority list of ECD, climate change, and environment programs, innovations, and solutions for discussion in the CoP. The half yearly agenda call will determine the frequency of the meetings based on the scope and priority of the agenda in the pipeline. All members are expected to share their expertise, and any documents or other resources they have which they think will be useful to all members.
There may be thematic subgroups created within the CoP which would be led by CoP members. They support the subgroups activities and provide strategic guidance to the knowledge products to be created, if any.
- Webinars with leading ECD, climate change and environmental experts.
- Workshops and reflection sessions based around knowledge gathering and generation, peer learning and supporting the delivery of certain products such as a regional strategy addressing the impact of climate change and other environmental issues on young children.
- Learning or discussion forum on member-driven topics and interests feeding into this regional advocacy.
- Co-creation of knowledge products with experts.
- Providing inputs to advocacy campaigns especially those planned at the country level.
To give you an idea of what this Community of Practice will look like, over the next few months, we aim to have webinars and learning sessions on the following, with experts from organisations focusing on ECD, climate change and other environmental issues e.g:
- Introducing climate change and other environmental issues – what does this mean for Early Childhood Development?: What is climate change? What are other terms used at the global level such as at UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) and via the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) like ‘climate vulnerable people?’ What does this all mean for the youngest children and our sector?
- What is the impact of climate change and other environmental issues on the youngest children? Aligned with the components of nurturing care, we will look at the impact of these crises on young children’s wellbeing and development, and the linkages between ECD and CC/ environmental issues in policies (including national adaptation plans), financing, and programming.
- Sub-regional reflection sessions: What are the sub regional contexts in which environmental/climate crises exist, who are the most affected groups (vulnerable children and families), what are some innovations, approaches, and solutions to the crises?
- ICRC (2020). Seven Things You Need To Know About Climate Change And Available at: https://www.icrc.org/en/document/climate-change-and-conflict
- IPCC, (2021). Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S. L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M. I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T. K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu and B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press.
- Joining Forces Alliance – ChildFund International, Plan International, Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages International, Terre des Hommes International Federation, & World Vision (2019). Child Rights Now! The Global Climate Crisis: A child rights crisis. Available at: https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/document/global-climate-crisis-child-rights-crisis
- Save the Children, (2021). Born into the Climate Crisis: Why we must act now to secure children’s rights. Available at: https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/library/born-climate-crisis-why-we-must-act-now-secure-childrens-rights?_ga=2.214013463.1453968004.1632748864-28292094.1628523669
- UNICEF (2021), The Climate Crisis is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index. Available at: https://www.unicef.org/reports/climate-crisis-child-rights-crisis
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (2020). Official Records of the General Assembly, forty-third session, Realizing the rights of the child through a healthy environment: ‘Report of the United Nations Hig
 Étienne Wenger, “Communities of practice: A brief introduction”