by Megan Boyce
On the 4th December 2019, I was fortunate to have been positioned as rapporteur for the invitation only ‘High-level meeting of Parliamentarians and Ministers/Vice-Ministers for Early Childhood Development (ECD)’. This meant that I was able to witness the discussions of leading officials and hear the key drivers for change in this field.
I sat in awe as I observed high level representatives from 11 countries present honest, critical accounts of the status of Early Childhood Development (ECD) in their home nations. Each representative was awarded the respect of the room as they unveiled the successes and challenges of their ECD progress. We heard from: Myanmar; Nepal; Vietnam; Pakistan; Samoa; Republic of Fiji; Bhutan; Kiribati; Bangladesh; Lao PDR, and China.
In addition to national representation, I was also honoured to hear from Hon. Dr. Ifereimi Waqainabete the Minister of Health of the Republic of Fiji. For the purpose of this meeting, Dr. Waqainabete set aside his national interests and spoke on behalf of the Pacific Regional Council for Early Childhood Development (PRC4ECD). The Hon. Dr. is the Co-Chair of this council alongside his colleague Hon. Sili Epa Tuioti the Minister of Finance for Samoa — who was also in attendance.
The PRC4ECD is a multisectoral, inter-governmental body, comprised of senior government representatives from sectors of education, finance, health and social welfare. It ensures that all young children across the Pacific reach their full potential, in order to create a positive future for themselves, their nation and the region.
The creation of the PRC4ECD is a transformative effort of regional representatives to bring their forces together and generate concrete action. I feel inspired by the work on ECD that is happening in the Pacific region and I look forward to following the progress and success of this council.
Once Hon. Dr. Ifereimi had finished providing his overview, the meeting then continued to explore ECD from multiple perspectives. Whilst these experiences came from a diverse set of countries there were some common themes felt throughout the entire Asia-Pacific Region:
- The need for additional funding dedicated to ECD — from governmental budgets and other sources,
- The power of convincing governments that investment in ECD is an investment in capital,
- The importance of learning from others through multi-sectoral and regional collaboration — the need to do this more,
- The desire to make sure the voice of the child is heard at the political table,
- The urgency of Climate Change and its effects in hindering ECD.
The growing importance of ECD in the Asia-Pacific Region is fantastic to see and I feel privileged to have heard from those leading the way in pushing this agenda. I urge you to consult the current research, policy agendas and multi-sectoral initiatives that are developing in this region. In particular, the outcomes of the 2019 Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Early Childhood Development hosted by ARNEC.
Great change is happening here and other countries should take note of the remarkable efforts ensued in this region to collaborate with one another.
I am extremely grateful for being granted the opportunity to witness the respectable and dignified manner with which this high-level meeting was conducted. I feel confident in the integrity of those ministers and their continued efforts to advocate for ECD on behalf of children. With the future of ECD, in the Asia-Pacific Region, in the hands of these ministers and all the dedicated people in attendance at the conference I am confident that sustainable change will happen.