Against the backdrop of the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), global leaders, government officials, donors, advocates, and other stakeholders gathered in New York in September to discuss collective action to address the mounting challenges facing children, families, and caregivers around the world.
A confluence of crises—COVID-19, climate disasters, and violent conflicts—has pushed children and families to the brink and driven the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) off track. With these challenges in mind, the Early Childhood Development Action Network (ECDAN) hosted the “Global Roundtable: On the Future of Young Children and their Families in a Changed World” on September 19 to discuss strategies and collaborative action to help children and families in crisis in hopes of changing the trajectory of the SDGs. More than 30 partners shared our priorities, expertise, and ideas, and identified collaborative ways we can work together to support children and their families.
During the meeting, partners working across sectors including early childhood development (ECD), children’s rights, health, education, and gender equality shared their priorities and discussed challenges and opportunities facing children and their families. Partners identified areas of synergy and opportunities for collaboration as well as places where gaps exist. The sobering reality of addressing the compounding effect of simultaneous and overlapping crises—or “polycrisis”—on young children’s development has created a sense of urgency as well as hope that together, through collaboration, we can accelerate progress and catalyze collective action to advance better outcomes for children to reach their full potential.
On September 20, global leaders, government officials, donors, and advocates convened to discuss how to build political will and public demand to increase investments in the early years. The event, “Act for Early Years: Accelerating the Movement to Unlock Investment in the Early Years” was co-hosted by Theirworld, Sesame Workshop, and ECDAN.
Sarah Brown, Chair of Theirworld, emphasized that this is a critical time to focus on the early years and called on experts, businesses, champions, youth activists, and government leaders to work together to strengthen investments in children and families.
Government ministers shared the investments their countries have been making in the early years and spoke about the need to invest in young children. Yevhen Kudriavets, Ukraine’s first Deputy Minister of Education and Science, said that they are prioritizing the early years and innovating to support young children and their families as part of the war recovery effort.
Dorothy Gwajima, Tanzania’s Minister for Community Development, Gender, Women and Special Groups, told the participants that working with local communities to ensure quality early childhood programs is a priority for her country. Harriette Chiggai, the Women’s Rights Advisor at the Office of the President of Kenya, shared that her country empowers counties to take ownership of their early childhood development programs.
Other speakers included youth activists, donors, and representatives from multilateral, regional, and country-level organizations, as well as other cross-sectoral groups, who shared commitments and ideas for how to deliver better outcomes for young children.
During those discussions, we learned about our partners’ priorities and commitments, discussed shared challenges and opportunities, and brainstormed solutions and ideas for collaboration. Since not all of our partners had the opportunity to participate in these discussions, we wanted to take this opportunity to share some of the key themes that emerged:
- More and better financing for ECD: We need to have more Official Development Assistance (ODA) and domestic financing, improve the efficiency of existing financing, and explore new and innovative financing mechanisms.
- Investment in grassroots advocacy and capacity strengthening: We need to support civil society organizations at the national level, catalyze local advocacy action, and generate public demand.
- Storytelling from young children, families, and caregivers: We need to authentically lift voices from the community level and leverage our collective channels to reach target audiences.
- Climate crisis is a top concern: We need to ensure young children and their needs are integrated into climate action plans with adequate resources and build climate-resilient health and education systems.
- Collective action: No single organization can solve large-scale, complex problems and create social change. We need more collaboration and coordination within the ECD field and across sectors to accelerate progress and greater impact.
Despite the challenges before us, there was a sense of hope and optimism that if we can effectively work together, we can build a world where all children are healthy, safe, happy, learning, well-nourished, and thriving.
By Katherine Shek and Brett Weisel
Katherine Shek is the Senior Communications Officer at ECDAN. Brett Weisel is the Global Policy and Advocacy Lead at ECDAN.