The United Arab Emirates witnessed the announcement of the “Dubai Declaration on Early Childhood Development” at the World Government Summit in Dubai, by Dubai Cares and UNICEF, in coordination with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC). The “Dubai Declaration on Early Childhood Development,” issued, responds to the growing scientific consensus that children’s early development directs their mental and emotional trajectories throughout life, with major implications for the economy and stability of their communities.
The United Arab Emirates hailed this declaration that calls for a rapid increase in global investment in the first years of children’s lives, with Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Chairperson of Dubai Cares saying, “Giving every child, no matter where they live, the best start in life is the best way to ensure healthy and prosperous individuals, communities and nations. It is vital that we seize this window when relatively low investments can have tremendous, determinative impacts. The evidence shows that early childhood development is critical for the economy, as well as achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.”
The “Dubai Declaration on Early Childhood Development” identifies the elements and approaches for a holistic package of services for young children and their caregivers, ranging from stimulation and play to nutrition to parental livelihoods. The declaration furthermore calls for these approaches to be backed by national policy, with regulations and incentives that can guide private sector investment alongside state prioritization of early childhood development.
“Coauthoring this Dubai Declaration on Early Childhood Development alongside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and UNICEF is an extension of our commitment to early childhood development, said His Excellency Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares. “We hope that this declaration strengthens the global movement towards investment in services in homes, schools, clinics, and communities that give young children the best start in life.” Al Gurg also spoke about Dubai Cares’ strategic partnership with UNICEF saying, “Our collaboration with UNICEF has allowed us to go from being a donor to becoming a strategic partner, developing programmatic priorities and implementation approaches that contribute to children and young people’s education and development around the world.”
“Good nutrition, early stimulation and protection are critical to a developing brain — what we call ‘eat, play, love’ — as it enters a once-in-a-lifetime period of rapid development,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “Investing in early childhood development is one of the best investments governments and businesses can make. It is affordable, it can boost individual earnings by up to 25 per cent in adulthood, and it yields a 13 per cent return on investment.”
A key scientific prompt for the Dubai Declaration is the 2017 series in the medical journal The Lancet, “Advancing Early Childhood Development: From Science to Scale,” which was launched in Dubai. According to studies, an estimated 249 million children under five living in low- and middle-income countries – 43 per cent – are at risk of poor development due to extreme poverty and stunting. The studies underscore that negative long-term implications for these children and their societies can be significantly prevented through early childhood development investments.
Dubai Cares has launched ECD programs, in partnership with UNICEF and other UN aid agencies as well as international and local NGOs in countries like Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Comoros Islands, The Gambia, India, Jordan, Kiribati, Laos, Malawi, Mexico, Palestine, Peru, Rwanda, Vanuatu, Tanzania and Zanzibar worth AED 110,363,973.92 million (USD 30,043,275.87).