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Early Childhood

ECD in Social Policies

UNICEF advocates for ECD policies at the global level as well as at the country level.
Some of the recent developments in advocacy efforts for ECD at the global level include the Secretary General’s Report on the “Status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child”, which was developed in 2010. This report calls on governments, international actors, civil society, communities and families to strengthen their efforts to ensure the full realization of children’s rights in early childhood. The report triggered a positive reaction and consequently, the UN General Assembly (UNGA), during its 65th Session, adopted the Omnibus Resolution on CRC in early years. These high level policy documents represent a new call for action to invest adequate resources in the provision of required services for young children.

Creation and implementation of ECD national policies or mainstreaming of ECD into social policies in programme countries is critical in setting-up a broad range of integrated ECD and family support initiatives. Governments are increasingly acknowledging the need for social policies that support the development of young children. Increased research is leading to new findings and more stakeholders advocating for effective support are behind this emerging pattern.

UNICEF, in collaboration with other international agencies, governments, civil society and NGOs, advocates for National Early Childhood Development policies that lay out concrete commitments and guidelines for young children’s survival, development and protection. Its ability to support linkages between broad social policies and specific results-based interventions gives UNICEF a comparative advantage.

Close to 70 UNICEF-supported countries either have stand-alone ECD policies or ECD mainstreamed into their social policies. This is a great achievement. However, less than one fifth of those countries have allocated budget for implementation of ECD policies, which is the next step of advocacy for UNICEF and partners. UNICEF is also working with governments, civil society and other partners to bridge the gap in providing access to ECD services for the most marginalized children. For example, education policy reforms in Ghana expanded the free and compulsory basic education to include two years of kindergarten and eliminated fees. As a result Gross-Enrolment Ratio (GER) for kindergarten has risen substantially to 97 percent in 2009-2010, surpassing the national target of 70 percent enrolment by 2010.

Policy development or change does not have to be a top-down process, resting solely in the hands of lawmakers and ministry officials.  Most importantly, policy is not created in a vacuum. Every local solution, successful research project, or advocacy effort has the potential to influence the thinking of decision-makers about what best supports young children and their families.  As parents, teachers, community leaders or concerned citizens, we can all impact on robust and effective policy formation. 



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