Policy Dialogue on Early Childhood Development and the Inclusion of Roma Children
Belgrade, 13 May 2011 – UNICEF and the Serbian Ministry of Education and Science hosted a Roundtable for Policy Dialogue on Early Childhood Development and the Inclusion of Roma Children, organized in partnership with the International Step by Step Association, CIP-Center for Interactive Pedagogy, the Open Society Foundations and the Roma Education Fund.
The Roundtable addressed the compelling issues of the provision of early childhood intervention programmes and universal ECD services for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, including Roma children. This is particularly relevant, especially since within the framework of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the European Commission has invited Member States and States seeking accession to the European Union to present national strategies for the inclusion of Roma within their national reform programmes for education, poverty reduction, and social and economic development. In this context and in line with the Convention on the Rights of Children, ensuring that young children from excluded and vulnerable groups are given equitable opportunities to access and use comprehensive and high quality ECD services, these services are placed high on the agenda.
The overall aims of the Roundtable were to highlight the urgency of placing services for young children and parents at the forefront of national policies, and to explore effective ways to address the inclusion of Roma children in ECD policies and other national policies. The Roundtable will support national efforts and offer orientation to both governmental and non-governmental bodies on cooperation in developing and implementing best ECD principles and actions to achieve the goals for social inclusion and poverty reduction.
Senior specialists from the fields of ECD, national policy planning, and research on Roma children as well as representatives of civil society organizations, including Roma NGOs presented new research results and discussed relevant policy initiatives. The latest thinking on the science of early childhood development were reviewed as well as lessons learned regarding the mainstreaming of inclusive ECD in national policies and programmes in health, nutrition, education, protection and welfare.
The outcomes of the Roundtable discussions will be issued as an Observations and Recommendations Report that will be circulated to a wide audience of regional and national stakeholders.
The Roundtable is organized within the framework of the EU-UNICEF partnership for the Project the Roma Good Start Initiative (RGSI). Funded by the European Union, the project addresses measures to promote Early Childhood Development (ECD) as an entry point to fostering the social inclusion of Roma children. It is being implemented in six countries: Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Spain, and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The expected results of the RGSI are an increased capacity of relevant stakeholders and service providers to include Roma children in early childhood interventions and to strengthen and expand existing services to embrace and implement inclusive early childhood care and education approaches.
The activities of the project include research, advocacy, capacity development, and communication, addressing the importance of ensuring that all children, including the most disadvantaged and marginalized, such as the Roma, are given the opportunity to have the best start in life.
The European Union is made up of 27 Member States who have decided to gradually link together their know-how, resources and destinies. Together, during a period of enlargement of 50 years, they have built a zone of stability, democracy and sustainable development whilst maintaining cultural diversity, tolerance and individual freedoms. The European Union is committed to sharing its achievements and its values with countries and peoples beyond its borders.
UNICEF has been working in the CEECIS region since the ‘90s with the objective of ensuring that the rights of children, especially those from the most vulnerable and marginalized groups, are addressed comprehensively. With a special commitment to meeting the survival, development, protection and participation rights of young children, the UNICEF Regional Office for CEECIS endeavours to support targeted and coordinated efforts to mainstream early childhood development principles in the health, nutrition, education, and child protection sectors. In Europe, UNICEF is a member of the Decade for Roma Inclusion and advocates and works for the rights of Roma children and their families. By joining the Decade, UNICEF has been afforded a unique opportunity to collaborate with development partners to bring children, including Roma children, to the forefront of policy attention. For more information about UNICEF and its work please visit: www.unicef.org