International Conference on Early Childhood Development (ECD): a joint effort by partners to support the beginning of life
Declaration adopted at the event signals a clear commitment of the country to address all dimensions of child development
BAKU, 1 June 2022 - As 200 Government officials, national and international policy experts, and development professionals gathered on 1 June for the "National ECD Strategy: Current Experience and Vision for the Future" International ECD Conference in Haydar Aliyev Center, the call was made for increased political and financial commitment for these early and crucial years in a child's life.
The Conference was organized by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the Regional Development Public Union with the financial support of the European Union to strengthen ECD services for the complete development of children in Azerbaijan by uplifting them to a new stage of progress, hold public discussions, ensure intersectoral coordination and determine the measures to be taken jointly by the relevant agencies.
"Good nutrition, early stimulation, and protection are critical to a child's developing brain — what we call 'eat, play, love' — as it enters a once-in-a-lifetime period of rapid development," said Alex Heikens, UNICEF Representative in Azerbaijan. "Investing in early childhood development is one of the best investments governments and businesses can make. It is affordable, can boost individual earnings by up to 25 per cent in adulthood, and yields a 13 per cent return on investment. It is not a single intervention, but a comprehensive package of interventions which benefits children, their families, communities, and countries."
"Good nutrition, early stimulation, and protection are critical to a child's developing brain — what we call 'eat, play, love' — as it enters a once-in-a-lifetime period of rapid development." - Alex Heikens, UNICEF Representative in Azerbaijan
In his speech, Soltan Mammadov, Head of the International Relations Department of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, said that children's physical and psychological health, intellectual, physical, and mental development from an early age, emotional tolerance, and social well-being are of special importance in shaping their personality. Therefore, it is vital to give proper care and attention to children at an early age. The planned National ECD strategy will serve as a single platform and a more effective tool to unite the efforts of relevant organizations in this direction.
"Last year, the European Union approved an ambitious The EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child to protect the rights of all children and provide access to basic services for vulnerable children. This strategy includes global dimensions that force the EU to support, protect and strengthen children on a global scale. In Azerbaijan, the European Union, together with the government, civil society organizations and strategic partners such as UNICEF, is pleased to support vulnerable children from early childhood," said EU Ambassador to Azerbaijan Peter Mishalko.
Speaking at the Conference, Mukhtar Mammadov, Deputy Minister of Education , Hidayat Abdullayev, Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Protection, Ilgar Gasimov, Deputy Minister of Health, Aynur Sofiyeva, Deputy Chair of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children, and Farid Suleymanov, ECD project specialist and representative of the "Regional Development" Public Union, stressed that the development of early childhood is one of the priorities of the state in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, highlghting the importance of inter-sectoral cooperation and joint efforts in the development and implementation of a comprehensive ECD Strategy.
"The planned National ECD strategy will serve as a single platform and a more effective tool to unite the efforts of relevant organizations in this direction." - Soltan Mammadov, Head of the International Relations Department of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation
Headquarters and Prof. Frank Oberklaid, Foundation Director of the Centre for Community Child Health at The Royal Children's Hospital, who joined the Conference online, shared their views on early childhood development, early intervention, adaptation of the environment for the development of young children, the importance of cross-sectoral cooperation for the development of ECD policy, as well as other necessary activities to be implemented.
The importance of home visits services for children and pregnant women, integrated social services model, best international ECD practices, disability and inclusion in ECD, current state and prospects of preschool education, the importance of social services, and children's rights community initiatives, parenting skills and other topics were discussed various panels at the Conference.
The Conference resulted in the adoption of a Joint Declaration, calling for a national roll-out of the ECD, developing a roadmap of further actions, and creating a working group that will champion the cause across different government sectors.
The Conference was organized in the culmination of UNICEF's three-year programme on "Integrated Community-Based Social Service for Vulnerable Children in Azerbaijan," implemented with the financial support of the European Union (EU). One of the program's main pillars included promoting and piloting the Early Childhood Development (ECD) initiative through the community-based ECD services (health and nutrition, early learning and protection, and community engagement and parenting education). As part of the programme thousands of children benefitted from community-based early learning services, social services, and home visits from patronage nurses.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.