New dynamic resource to ensure greater attention to early childhood in Asia-Pacific region
Membership in ARNEC (Asia-Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood), launched in February of 2008, is free and open to any professional concerned with young children in the Asia-Pacific region. The network will work to strengthen advocacy, policy, research and innovative practices in early childhood at national and regional levels by:
• Forging progress in aligning policies and implementation to the Convention on the Rights of the Child,
• Building capacity and sharing experiences through networking and multiple channels of communication, and
• Leveraging human, institutional and financial resources in support of early childhood.
The need for such a network was exemplified by the call, less than a week after its launch, for ARNEC to serve as a knowledge hub for information and resources related to early childhood and school readiness standards in the region. At a meeting of countries creating such standards, representatives joined in requesting that ARNEC collect and track standards across Asia and the Pacific so that governments could avoid reinventing the wheel and repeating the mistakes of others by drawing upon the expertise and resources of other countries in the region. The network quickly agreed to take on this project, and looks forward to serving as a resource to professionals, organizations and governments in the quest to ensure optimal holistic development for all children in Asia and the Pacific.
The concept of the network emerged from the Second Asia Early Childhood Policy Review seminar held in Bangkok in July 2007. At this seminar, participants from 9 countries (Pakistan, Nepal, Mongolia, China, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Lao PDR and Singapore) met to discuss the possibilities of forming a regional early childhood professional network that would cross all disciplines and sectors. The primary goal of this network would be to share knowledge of effective policies and practices related to early childhood for the benefit of all countries in the region.
With a concept note drafted at that first meeting, three core donors initially signed on to support the establishment and early development of ARNEC:
• UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific Regional Office,
• Plan International Regional Office for Asia, and
• UNESCO Asia Pacific Regional Bureau for Education.
Subsequently, ARNEC welcomed a fourth donor partner to the network, the Open Society Foundation. The ARNEC Steering Committee held its inaugural meeting on 5 February 2008 and publicly launched the network two days later at the Third Asia EC Policy Review seminar.
The 14-member ARNEC Steering Committee is composed of professionals based in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, and represent government, academia, NGOs and UN agencies. At the one-day Steering Committee meeting, it was amazing to see this dedicated group not only establish all of the key administrative foundations for a new regional network but begin to tackle the Workplan and design ARNEC’s first activities.
Also present to support and contribute to the development of ARNEC were representatives from the Open Society Foundation; Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development; Regional Training and Resource Centre, Asia; UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia; Plan India; Plan Bangladesh; and UNICEF Headquarters, among others.