Brussels November 7, 2001 - Leading international experts, European decision
makers, foundations, NGOs and the private sector met in Brussels today for a
roundtable discussion on Early Childhood Development (ECD) predominately in
developing countries. The meeting was the first ever organised in Europe by
the Aga Khan Foundation and the World Bank.
Opening the meeting, Mrs. Glenys Kinnock MEP, Vice-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and the European Parliament's Rapporteur on basic education in developing countries, stressed the importance of ensuring that policy makers capture the full human potential of young children. 'Investment in the early years will reap huge personal and developmental dividends' she said. 'Development is about starting young and about delivering basic needs but also about children's rights. These are fundamental issues of equity and social justice'.
All participants agreed that ECD remains one of the most powerful levers for accelerating the Education For All programme and the Millennium Development Goals on Poverty Reduction. Speakers from non-governmental organisations in Uganda, the Caribbean, and the Philippines shared their local experiences of ECD programmes. The consensus of opinion was that ECD is at the core of human development and essential for the development of a healthy society, and the economic prosperity of all countries.
Mr. James D. Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, emphasised the importance of recognising the role of culture and the local context in fostering the creative capacity of children. He also stressed the need for a holistic approach to early child development to prepare all children for the multi-cultural context of today's world. 'We need to stimulate all the world's children to become global thinkers', he said.
Mr. Robert Shaw, General Manager of the Aga Khan Foundation, highlighted the wider potential of community-based early childhood initiatives as a vehicle for community participation and the creation of civic institutions.
The Portuguese Secretary of State for Development Cooperation, Luis Filipe Amado, concluding the meeting, stressed the need for increased cooperation in the field of early childhood development between governments, donors, multi-lateral institutions, civil society and the private sector .