15 Pacific island governments take a giant step forward on Early Childhood Development
SUVA, 23 October, 2019 – Today, government ministers from 15 Pacific island countries and from several sectors, including education, finance, health and social welfare, announced a new Pacific Regional Council for Early Childhood Development, at a three-day forum being held from 23 to 25 October in Nadi, Fiji.
Fiji’s Minister for Health and Medical Services, and Chair of the Ministerial Roundtable meeting, the Honourable Dr. Ifereimi Waqainabete, made the announcement to participants on day one of the forum, applauding the multi-sectoral nature of the council and emphasizing the 10-year workplan (2019-2029) that the council will design.
“I am pleased, on behalf of the members, to announce that the council and steering committee is now in place and the hard work begins,” said the Honourable Dr. Ifereimi Waqainabete.
After the endorsement of the Pacific Regional Council for Early Childhood Development, Ministers will now take the lead with their governments on implementing the council’s plans to create a better future for children in the region.
This new Pacific-wide council will help to further develop national systems, services and programmes, which will ensure that all young children in the Pacific have the opportunity to reach their full potential, create a positive future for themselves, their nation and the region. The establishment of the council also supports the call made by Pacific Forum Leaders in Nauru in 2018 to support early childhood development and address childhood obesity.
During the opening of the regional forum, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore highlighted in a video message to participants how important early moments are in a child’s life.
“The nutrition, love, care and protection the parents give their child and the early brain stimulation received — through playing and interacting with friends and family – develop the child’s brain for success,” Ms Fore said.
She added, “This benefits the child, the family and the society. So why aren’t more countries investing in early childhood development? Why aren’t more following the lead of Pacific nations like yours?”
A recent study* by the World Bank found that on average, a child born today will only reach half of their full potential when they become adults, partly due to poor access to and quality of critical public services, such as health and education.
“Our young people are confronted by what are being increasingly identified as non-traditional human security challenges. Improving access to early childhood development needs to be addressed within a complex environment where our children also need improved access to health including vaccine and hygiene services. Furthermore, our children need greater protection against abuse and exploitation. In this context, the future viability of our Blue Pacific is not guaranteed,” said Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor.
In 2017, UNICEF and the World Bank organised the first ever Pacific Conference on early childhood development, where a nine-point action plan, the Pasifika Call to Action on ECD, which defines critical national efforts to secure the best development of young children, was endorsed.
Now, two years after that landmark conference, high level officials have come together with regional partners this week to take stock of the progress since the call. They will discuss what has been done to support the full realisation of children’s potential, the challenges faced, as well as plan changes needed to make further progress on early childhood development.
“The Pacific Islands’ children need action – not just words and commitment. We are proud to work with governments from around the region and following today’s announcement we stand ready to support governments in the Pacific to assess how policies, systems, services and programmes, can better provide for children in the Pacific,” said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Pacific Representative.
The Pacific Regional Council for Early Childhood Development represents 15 Pacific Island Countries and territories, including the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tokelau, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
UNICEF, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Council for Early Childhood Development, is hosting the forum this week, with funding support from the Government of New Zealand and in collaboration with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, the World Bank and regional partners.
Notes to editors:
About the Pacific Regional Council for Early Childhood Development (PRC4ECD)
The PRC4ECD is a multisectoral, inter-governmental body, comprised of senior government representatives from sectors of education, finance, health and social welfare, which ensures that all young children across the Pacific reach their full potential in order to create a positive future for themselves, their nation and the region.
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.