The United Arab Emirates witnessed today 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. The declaration responds to the growing scientific consensus that children’s early development directs their mental and emotional trajectories throughout their lives, with major implications for the economy and stability of their communities.
The United Arab Emirates hailed this declaration, which calls for a rapid increase in global investment in the early years of children’s lives. Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashemy, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Chairperson of Dubai Cares, stated, "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 for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals."
The declaration identifies the elements and approaches for a holistic package of services for young children and their caregivers, ranging from stimulation and play to nutrition and parental livelihoods. The declaration also 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.
"Co-authoring 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 Tariq Al Gurg, chief executive officer of Dubai Cares. "We hope that this declaration will strengthen 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, noting, "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’s 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," remarked 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 percent in adulthood, and it yields a 13 percent 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 various 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 the fact that negative long-term implications for these children and their societies can be prevented through early childhood development investments.
Dubai Cares has launched early childhood development programs, in partnership with UNICEF and other UN aid agencies, as well as international and local non-governmental organizations in countries such as Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the 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).