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Parliamentary forum calls for greater Investment in Early Childhood on the Eve of the National Budget

Colombo, November 8, 2017:  A special parliamentary forum highlighting the transformative impact on investing in early childhood could have on Sri Lanka, was organized by the Sri Lanka Parliamentary Caucus for Children in partnership with UNICEF, and under the leadership of the Speaker of Parliament, Honourable Karu Jayasuriya. Open to all Members of Parliament, this session presented new medical and economic research into the impact of early childhood development on economic and social development across Asia and Sri Lanka. 

–In his key note address, renowned economist Dr. Michael Samson, Director of Research at Economic Policy Research Unit and  author of British Medical Journal Global Health Paper entitled ‘Cognitive capital, equity and child sensitive social protection Asia and the Pacific’ presented his groundbreaking research on how, by implementing and investing in a set of proven ‘early childhood development’ polices and activities, parliamentarians and policymakers can achieve a substantial increase in health outcomes, productivity and ‘cognitive capital’ of future generations of Sri Lankan’s and support the achievement of  Sri Lanka’s vision 2025 for sustainable development. “Childhood investments in cognitive capital generate the highest social and economic returns governments can achieve” said Dr. Samson. Adding that there’s no other investment that raise productivity fast enough to address the demographic challenges that Sri Lanka and many other countries are facing.

Speaking at the forum, the Honorable Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya said “As representatives of the people, we formulate policies for the development of the country including so many projects exclusively for the children.  Yet, early childhood development is a subject on which we have to focus our special attention.  We should allocate more funds for early childhood development in the budget process in order to harness maximum benefits for the future generations.”

The special parliamentary forum was chaired by the Hon. Dr. Mrs Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Chairperson for the Parliamentary Caucus for Children. Dr. Fernandopulle highlighted that key follow-up actions to be taken up by the Caucus including the need to fast track the Early Childhood Development Policy; increase the salary allocation for pre-school teachers; promotion of parenting and community-based programs on early stimulation including the need to boost the role of the Public Health Midwives beyond health and nutrition to also cover the cognitive development of children.

The UNICEF Representative for Sri Lanka, Mr. Tim Sutton said “Investment in Early Childhood Development have been proven to shape the educational success, health and productivity of individuals, ensuring that they are skilled and better prepared to take on the future challenges of a global and digital economy. In fact its rate of return can be as high as 13.7 per cent” adding “we all want a stable and prosperous Sri Lanka, achieving its full potential. Through smart investments in Early Childhood Development, we can secure Sri Lanka’s economic wealth, we can ensure that Sri Lanka is rich in its most important and precious resource – its human capital.”

Several key Ministers including Hon. Eran Wickramaratne, State Minister of Finance; Dr. Harsha De Silva – Deputy Minister of Planning and Economic Development and Development Partners including Ms. Valerie Layrol, World Bank Operational Advisor provided valuable inputs at the forum.





About the Sri Lanka Parliamentary Caucus for Children: The Parliamentary Caucus for Children aims to enhance the policy environment (reviewing and proposing new legislation) for the well-being of children, in coordination with different institutions, and in doing so, raise the visibility of children’s issues in the country. The Caucus advocates for CRC implementation, including reviewing and proposing budgetary allocations to take the CRC mandate forward.

About UNICEF’s work with Parliaments: At a global level, UNICEF works with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and supports parliaments in their law-making, oversight, budgeting and representation capacities to promote children’s rights across regions. In South Asia, the UNICEF Regional Office, in coordination with the Parliament of Nepal, organized the first South Asia Parliamentarian Platform for Children in Kathmandu earlier this year. The meeting brought together lawmakers from eight countries including Sri Lanka to prioritise, promote, and safeguard children’s rights. The Parliamentary Forum on Investing in Early Childhood was held as part of a follow-up recommendation between the key members of Parliamentary Caucus for Children and the UNICEF Regional Director earlier in March this year.

For more information, please contact: Mrs. Kushani Rohanadeera, Assistant Secretary General of Parliament – +94 112777 230 or Suzanne Wooster-Prematilaka, UNICEF Communications Officer +94 77 316 5378

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