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Early Childhood

Technical and policy documents

UN and UNICEF Documents


A collaborative research project of the ECD and Gender Sections investigating the critical relationships between women's economic empowerment (WEE) and early childhood care and development (ECCD). The aim is to provide the evidence base for policies, programmes and investments in quality child care that could yield a two-generational dividend in improved holistic child development and women's economic empowerment. The result is a series of 5 publications:

1. Brochure
The Brochure derives from a rigorous Desk Review based on literature from low and middle income countries (LMICs). It provides a brief summary of findings and policy recommendations, illustrating how policies can be formulated and programmes designed to achieve women's economic empowerment and early childhood care and development as mutually reinforcing objectives.  

2. Strengthening Families: a Two Generational Solution
Women play a central role in reproduction, childcare and child raising. The low socio-economic status and lack of empowerment they experience in many developing countries have direct, negative impacts on child development. There is need for a strong support system around women in their childcare roles. The State should take the lead in establishing and strengthening this support system. The Review proposes A Model of Co-responsibility for childcare, outlining clearly defined roles for the social actors: The State, Employers, Child care providers, and Parents. The integrated policy framework proposed offers tremendous potential in terms of harnessing the synergies of key social actors for realizing important objectives that are critical to sustainable development: women's economic empowerment and holistic child development.
Desk review

3. Technical Note
Poverty is a persistent feature of women's lives in many parts of the developing world. 200 million of the world's children live in poverty and experience malnutrition. These circumstances seriously impair their growth and development. Clearly, women’s and children’s poverty are closely interlinked. The Technical Note proposes an integrated framework of policies and programmatic interventions aimed at reversing these trends, and achieving two-generational outcomes that advance women's economic empowerment (WEE) while promoting successful outcomes for children. In so doing, it serves to support and strengthen UNICEF’s efforts to mainstream gender equality in all aspects of early childhood programming, as outlined in the Strategic Plan (2014-2017), and the Gender Action Plan (2014-2017).  
The Technical Note will be useful for UNICEF's country officers and partners. It provides them with a tool for cross-sectoral programming and advocacy efforts aimed at realizing positive outcomes for women and their children.
 Technical Note

4. Case Study from Kenya: Impacting Caregivers, Mothers and Children though centre-based care
As part of UNICEF’s research project on the nexus between women’s economic empowerment and childcare, Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were conducted, and individual questionnaires administered to mothers whose children attended ECD and Day Care Centres in Kibera and Dagoretti, Kenya, and to caregivers working in those centres. The resulting Case Study Report describes the methodology and the data collection process. It then presents the main findings of the research, and concludes with a series of proposed policy recommendations. In summary, findings show that
both mothers and caregivers recognize the importance of childcare centres for successful child development and for the wellbeing of women. 
 Case Study

 5. Analysis of Secondary Data from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE)
As part of UNICEF’s research project on the nexus between women’s economic empowerment and childcare, analyses were undertaken of secondary data derived from World Bank surveys conducted in 2014 in 4 CEE countries: Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Ukraine. In summary, the analyses highlight the critical nature of childcare needs in the CEE region. The conclusions of the report align fully with  those of the broader research project on women's economic empowerment and early childhood care and development, showing that the demand for childcare services is high among working women, while affordable, accessible childcare is a strong enabler of women's employment.
 Analysis of secondary data

Development Lesson Learned from 2011 earthquake and tsunami
Lessons learned developed by the Japan Committee for UNICEF drawing from Japan’s recent emergencies. Examples are provided to demonstrate Japan’s efforts to support and protect young children in times of emergencies.

Despite widespread recognition, there are several gaps in our knowledge of what works, to promote positive parenting practices, particularly in vulnerable contexts. To address these programmatic and knowledge gaps in parenting practices, UNICEF commissioned a systematic review that reviewed 105 studies of parenting programmes. The studies reviewed were operationally defined as activities, programmes, services or interventions, for parents. The programmes aimed at improving parenting interaction, behaviors, knowledge, beliefs, attitudes and practices, targeting children aged 0-8 years. The systematic review is the most extensive and rigorous research paper conducted in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC). A mapping of parenting programmes accompanied the Systematic Review providing a graphic representation for the field. Both the systematic review and the mapping were published in 2015.
As a follow up, the Standards for Parenting Programmes in LMIC were developed and endorsed in June 2017 for dissemination. The Standards are based on both abovementioned pieces of work and other most recent research such as the Lancet series on ECD, October 2016. The Standards are one of the tools to support ECD programmes for young children and their families, including the most disadvantaged.
 Mapping of ECD parenting programmes

UN Omnibus Resolution on the Convention on the Rights of the Child
The UN General Assembly, during its 65th Session, adopted the Omnibus Resolution on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) specifically focused on Early Childhood. The Omnibus Resolution on CRC was prepared by the UN Third Committee with the UNICEF ECD Unit, HQ serving as a technical adviser during the discussions. This high level policy document represents a new call for action to put early childhood on national agendas, to invest adequate resources in the provision of needed services for young children, to shift the focus and emphasis of intervention to deprived children and to establish proper systems to monitor implementation of their rights.

Secretary General's Report on the Status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Coordinated by the ECD Unit, and in partnership with other UN agencies, the Secretary General’s Report on the "Status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child" was developed in 2010. Implementation of child rights in early childhood is the focus of section IV of the present report, which highlights roles and responsibilities at different levels for the fulfilment in early childhood of the rights to survival, development, protection and participation. 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.

ECD in Emergencies Advocacy Package
The ECD Advocacy Package: Thriving through Crisis by Playing and Learning was developed by the ECD Unit to give a voice to children who have experienced some type of emergency situation in their lives as well as their parents, caregivers and UNICEF field staff living and working in emergencies. The package also aims to mitigate the adverse effects of emergency situations by defining the ECD Principles and Actions in Emergencies and sharing best practices on how to create a stimulating environment for families and young children in emergency settings. It can also be used for resource mobilization and advocating for support for ECDiE among stakeholders.

Inequities in Early Childhood Development: What the data say
Parents and caregivers play critical roles in determining children’s chances for survival and development, and they can also empower children to become architects of their own lives. Inequities in Early Childhood Development: What the data say provides an overview of childcare practices and aspects of children’s home environments based on data gathered through Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys in select countries. It makes a compelling case for effective action and investment in early childhood development.

UNICEF ECD Evaluation Report
In 2008, UNICEF entered into a 13.5 million USD strategic partnership with the Government of the Netherlands (GoN), which provided funding to UNICEF Headquarters, seven Regional Offices and 10 Country Offices in Africa and Asia. A key component of this investment was an in-depth review of the achievements and gaps in ECD programming. In April 2010, UNICEF's Evaluation Office contracted Mathematica Policy Research to conduct an evaluation to assess a) the status of ECD strategies and activities, and b) the factors reported by informants that influenced processes and drove progress toward targeted outcomes. The report is a first of its kind and summarizes the outcomes of the assessment with recommendations for the way forward.

Supporting workers with family responsibilities
This Joint ILO/UNICEF Working Paper offers an integrated set of social sector investments that target the critical stages of early childhood, from pregnancy through to care and development in the early years and later childhood. This integrated approach can give families the support needed to balance the competing demands of the labour market and childcare. The policy recommendations detailed in this paper are intended to provide governments with practical, evidence-based options for family-focused, employment-centred growth. Together, we can develop creative and affordable options for giving every child the best possible start in life.

Guidance Note on Integrating ECD into Nutrition Interventions in Emergencies
During food shortage emergencies, integrating simple early stimulation, learning and play activities into nutrition interventions is crucially important to increase and sustain the impact of nutrition interventions on a young child’s health and nutritional status. This Guidance Note is written for local and international staff running nutrition programmes in emergencies, and for local, regional and national authorities and donors involved in such programmes. The note explains WHY nutrition programmes need to include early childhood development (ECD) activities to maximize the child’s development. It provides practical suggestions as to WHAT simple steps are necessary to create integrated programmes in situations of famine or food insecurity and it gives examples of HOW such integrated programmes have been established in other situations.

Impact Assessment of ECD Kits after the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti
The impact assessment report of ECD Kits describes the use and impact of distributing UNICEF ECD Kits in the early phases of the post emergency situation in Haiti. The use of the kit includes logistics and processes. Impact addresses intended and unintended outcomes of the kit, with an emphasis on community level and child focused learning outcomes.

ECD Booklet: Real Life Stories from Around the World
This booklet contains stories from Cambodia, DRC, Ghana, Malawi, Mongolia, Nepal, Swaziland and Tanzania. It provides real life accounts of how ECD interventions can impact the lives of young children and increase their chances to survive, develop and become healthy, happy and productive adults. Each story has a common thread - the urgent need to provide the most disadvantaged children with protection, early learning opportunities and basic health and nutritional needs. These personal accounts demonstrate that despite limited resources, continued commitment to reduce disparities and build partnerships that help to close the gaps between the richest and the poorest households, have the power to reach the unreachable.

Discussion Paper on Disability in Early Childhood
The discussion paper provides a brief overview of issues pertaining to ECD and disability, and lays the foundation for a long-term strategic and collaborative process aimed at improving the developmental outcomes, participation and protection of young children with disabilities. In line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the paper highlights the importance of recognizing the rights of young children with disabilities in the same frame as the rights of other children, to health care, nutrition, education, social inclusion and protection from violence, abuse and neglect. (French version / Spanish version)

Programming Experiences in Early Child Development
This examples and case studies from 21 countries presented in this document demonstrate the benefit of cross-sectoral programming to support early childhood development. Some build on early child care or education programmes, some work through health or nutrition programmes and others provide holistic services. Policy development is highlighted as a critical component to support programming. This document is designed to give examples to programme implementers at all levels of how different sectors can work together. It is not a blueprint for programming, but rather a source of ideas, suggestions and inspiration.

Programme Communication for Early Child Development
This document explains how principles of programme communication are part of a holistic approach to early childhood development and gives examples from nine countries. It is designed for programme planners, designers, artists and communicators to improve their ability to use programme communication for holistic early child development.
The Best Start in Life for Every Child in English, French French and Spanish Spanish.
Facts for Life
Since it was first published in 1989, Facts for Life has become one of the world's most popular books, with more than 15 million copies in use in 215 languages in 200 countries.

External Documents

Handbook of Early Childhood Development Research and its Impact on Global Policy
This publication calls for placing early childhood development at the top of the global policy agenda, enabling children to achieve their full developmental potential and to contribute to equitable economic and social progress worldwide. The volume presents evidence-based programs and policies for advancing the positive development of young children across the globe, focusing on developing countries. An international ensemble of scholars, policymakers, and practitioners present evidence from multiple disciplinary, sectorial, and analytical perspectives, emphasizing the importance of scientific findings in promoting child development and addressing programmatic challenges to quality, sustainability, measurement, finance, and capacity. Sponsored by the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD), the premier international association of developmental scientists, and UNICEF, this Handbook will be invaluable to policy advocates, program managers of national governments, international NGOs, and development agencies, as well as to scholars and students in the areas of child development and global policy.

Lancet 2011 ECD Series of Papers
In September 2011, The Lancet published a new Series on ECD consisting of two papers and a commentary by UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. The Lancet papers identify gaps in implementation and coverage of interventions, calculate the economic costs of missed investment in early learning programmes, and present new evidence on the causes and effects of developmental inequities in early childhood in low-income and middle-income countries. Mr. Lake’s commentary on the Lancet papers focuses on the new evidence presented in the Series on the causes and consequences of developmental inequities in early childhood. Mr. Lake also urges key stakeholders including governments, UNC  agencies and civil society organizations to take action and invest further in quality parenting programming and creating organised early learning centres so that every child has the right to develop her or his full potential.

Investing in Young Children Report (The World Bank)
The World Bank Human Development Network developed this comprehensive ECD guide to assess the quality of the latest evidence on various ECD topics and identify the knowledge gaps for which additional experimentation and evaluation are required. The guide also provides a conceptual framework that outlines the various domains of child development and the critical windows of opportunity for specific interventions within the early childhood time frame within these key components of ECD programming: 1) Initiating the policy dialogue on investing in ECD, 2) Assessing needs, measuring outcomes, and establishing policy frameworks, 3) Strategic entry points for ECD investments, and 4) Costing and financing ECD programmes.

Early Child Development - A Powerful Equalizer
This document synthesizes knowledge on opportunities to improve the state of Early Child Development on a global scale and provides a framework for understanding the environments (and their characteristics) that play a significant role in influencing early development. The principal strategic insight of this document is that the nurturant qualities of the environments where children grow up, live and learn - parents, caregivers, family and community - will have the most significant impact on their development. In most situations, parents and caregivers cannot provide strong nurturing environments without help from local, regional, national, and international agencies. Government and civil society actors, from local to international, can work in concert with families to provide equitable access to strong nurturing environments for all children globally.

 The best start in life for every child in English, French and Spanish.



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