The theme of this year’s High-Level Political Forum – a UN platform where countries submit and discuss their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), is “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”, a theme closely linked with child poverty and Early Childhood Development (ECD). This Forum which will be held next month – July 2019, provides an opportunity for 47 Governments to showcase their commitment and efforts to end child poverty by investing in the ECD.
Investments in ECD are not only fiscally smart, given the multiplier effect of ECD across several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but they are also scientifically credible and morally correct. We have learned that a developing brain needs multiple inputs – health, nurturing care, protection, and enrichment. By incorporating these multiple inputs into our early childhood development efforts, we can foster the developmental potential of young children. At the same time, we also maximize the multiplier effect ECD has on many of the Global Goals, including Goal 1: Eradicate poverty. ECD has been documented to be one of the most cost-effective strategies for poverty alleviation. Early in life, when the brain has the maximum capacity to develop in the fullness of its complexity, children learn the skills that will help them flourish in later years.
Children who receive assistance in their early years achieve more success at school. As adults they have higher employment and earnings, better health, and lower levels of welfare dependence and crime rates than those who don’t have these early opportunities. Undeniably, most children raised in poverty complete far less education than middle class children, due in part to their lowered ability to learn in school. The opportunity to help disadvantaged children attain a more equal start in schooling is in the earliest years of life, when children’s brains are developing most rapidly, and the basis for their cognitive, social and emotional development is being formed. In addition, a good foundation in the early years makes a difference through adulthood and even gives the next generation a better start. Educated and healthy people participate in, and contribute to the financial and social wealth of their societies.
A commitment to reducing poverty and increasing the chances of success for all children requires investment in the earliest years The Moral Imperative to End Extreme Poverty in a statement “Action to Secure Wellbeing Outcomes for Early Childhood” states:
“Poverty results from and is a manifestation of capability deprivation. For children hunger, malnutrition, violence, neglect, etc. represent systematic and sustained failure in the system of entitlements and protection- at family, community, society and economic institutions. The collapse of this system of entitlement and protections for children is an intolerable moral and legal failure. All persons of conscience and more so faith actors and their agencies should actively hold and bring states to account for their redress”.
A poorly developed child is an embodiment of injustice. Let us affirm our commitment to the Global Goals by giving every child a fair chance in life from start.