Child Development and Anti-Poverty Panel at Conference in Beijing
On 23rd October 2015, Dr. Manzoor Ahmed, Chair, Bangladesh ECD Network (BEN) abd Professor Emeritus, BRAC University, attended a panel discussion on "Child Development and Poverty Reduction" at China’s Fourth International Early Childhood Development and Poverty Reduction Summit and 2015 Asia-Pacific Regional ECD Conference 21-24 October 2015 in Beijing, China. The conference was organized by Asia-Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood (ARNEC) and China Development Research Foundation (CDRF). The discussion points Dr. Manzoor Ahmed have been shared here.
"This is of course the central theme of this conference. We are coming back to this theme in this panel discussion.
We heard on the first day from Secretary General Ban Ki Moon that China has achieved transformational results having reduced poverty on an unprecedented scale, and improved education, health, gender equality and women’s empowerment. What are the lessons from China? As we have heard from the speakers from China – political commitment to child and human development, continuity and persistence in policy, pragmatic adjustments from trial and experience, and mobilizing essential resources have been the key. More has to be done in China, as the speakers pointed out, but more has been done in scale and pace than most other countries.
To this well-informed, committed and converted- to- the- cause audience I cannot say anything new. I can only underscore a few things we need to keep in mind as we continue our struggle.
First, the simple message, that child development itself is poverty reduction. It has been said many times that preventing inter-generational transfer of poverty requires attention to young child development. Fair enough. I do not underestimate this idea. But what about protecting the child today, the present generation, from gross poverty and deprivation – because poverty is not just poor income? Health, nutrition, education -- creating the conditions for psycho-social and cognitive growth, nurturing the child and flourishing of the full human potential -- are as much the poverty reduction agenda as the child development agenda. Economics Nobel Laureates Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz have spoken about it. This year’s Nobel Pize winner Angus Deaton, whose work has been focused on inequality, would agree. A happy childhood is a child’s right and also a condition for poverty reduction.
Second, look at SDGs holistically. The 17 SDGs including goal 4 and sub-goal 4.2 are interlinked – as eloquently expressed by Pia Britto and others. I would say the connections are not confined to 11 of the goals – we must look holistically at all 17 goals and their links with human capacity enhancement and people’s empowerment. The technical specialists still negotiating the details of the indicators may or may not take this integrated view. It is for us in the child development and education community across countries to be alert and make this happen – especially as countries formulate their national plans and strategies for SDG 2030 and Education 2030.
Third, more has to be done for integration within the education sector itself. The point has been made that children cannot be put in silos. Their growth, development and well-being are a continuum. Transition from home to preschool, preschool to primary and building the foundations of early learning, in language and math, and social and emotional development, have to be ensured. And the vital role of parenting and care-giving to young children has to be supported by lifelong learning and adult education through community learning centers including ICT learning spaces. Community and adult learning centers exist under different names in most countries, but are not used enough for promoting child development.
Fourth, coping with climate change has to include child development. Bangladesh and other low income countries are especially vulnerable to climate change effects. This vulnerability places their people including children in poverty and danger, as the Minister of State of Bangladesh pointed out. In planning adjustment and mitigation measures for climate change, protecting children from hazards and creating the conditions for their development have to be given higher priority than given so far. This is a way of mobilizing resources for child development and education, because at least 100 billion dollars a year of assistance is expected from the climate change fund. We must have a share in it.
Finally, barriers to implementing policies have to be identified and acted upon. We have heard that many countries including Bangladesh have formulated comprehensive early childhood development policy. This is good news. But they face many obstacles in implementing the policy – constraints in resources, capacities, old habits in governance and management practices, and corruption and waste arising from both governance problems and capacity deficits.
As Jeffrey Sachs reminded us, we have to bring together technology, resources, partnerships, synergy and commitment within countries and across countries. We have heard many times that investment in children is the best investment we can make. Then why don’t we do it? We owe it to our children and ourselves, not to fail, and to rise up to this challenge."
Chair, Bangladesh ECD Network
Professor Emeritus, BRAC University
Beijing, 23 October 2015