Fourth International Conference on Poverty Reduction and Child Development
China Development Research Foundation –Fourth International Conference on Poverty Reduction and Child Development, October 21‒24, 2015
To highlight the importance of early child development (ECD) as one of the most powerful levers for accelerating poverty eradication across all countries and for laying foundation of a country’s economic growth and prosperity, the Fourth International Conference on Poverty Reduction and Child Development and ARNEC’s 2015 Asia-Pacific Regional ECD Conference was held in Beijing, China, on October 21‒24, 2015.
From 34 countries, more than 700 government leaders, policy experts, academics, and representatives of non-governmental organizations gathered for the event. This event was the first international gathering following the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit on the post-2015 agenda (held in New York on September 25‒27), which adopted a transformative 2030 agenda for sustainable development that addresses not only economic growth, but also social justice and environmental stewardship. A major challenge for the world in the next 15 years is to assure that no one is left behind, especially children. There is a need to ensure that all children have access to the full range of services they need and that their rights are fulfilled.
Among the key tasks to consider are redirection of social policies to focus on young children aged 0‒6 years; expansion of education, public health, and social protection models to incorporate the science of early human development; and collection and use of data to track how well children are doing and to quantify levels of inequality in child development across population groups.
The international conference raised awareness of ECD among senior Chinese government officials and increased their commitment to address the bottom 20 percent of China’s young children through early childhood interventions (i.e., nutrition and village preschools) in China’s current Poverty Elimination Plan by 2020. The event also positioned the need for equitable preschool education in China as an integral strategy in China’s 13th Five Year Plan.
During the conference, Asian and Pacific policymakers shared their national action plans and program examples of their accomplishments in ECD policy and interventions. The former prime minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, called on all Asian and Pacific policymakers to increase resources and initiate innovative financing schemes to achieve the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in education (goal 4.2). She pointed out that starting early (from preschool on) is fundamental and strategic to achieving universal quality learning outcomes among all children and, in particular, among the most disadvantaged across the Asia-Pacific region, which is home to much of the world’s population and a major source of innovation and inspiration.
In a statement by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which was read at the conference, he emphasized that “Our shared conviction is clear: children should be at the center of all dimensions of sustainable development. Early child development is fundamental to reaching our vision of ending all preventable maternal, child, and adolescent deaths by 2030 and ensuring the well-being of all children, everywhere. It is also among the keys to reducing poverty and advancing progress on all of the SDGs.”
The commitment from policymakers, managers, practitioners, and academicians at the conference converged on a common purpose to translate new understanding in the science of early child development to life-changing actions for the millions of children who are most disadvantaged. Hence, it is my deep conviction, from our gathering in Beijing, that, together, our march will involve governments as well as parliaments, international and local agents, indigenous peoples, civil society, business and the private sector, and the scientific and academic community. Moreover, we all embrace a shared commitment to all children‒to give each child a fair start in life‒and will target our investments and early interventions to reach children who are at greatest risk of being left behind.
China takes pride in leading this journey, as it reflects the core vision of the Chinese Government’s Belt and Road Initiative. This initiative advocates peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, and mutual learning and mutual benefit. It promotes practical cooperation in all fields and aims to build a community of shared interests, destiny, and responsibility featuring mutual political trust, economic integration, and a people-to-people bond.
Lu Mai, Secretary General, China Development Research Foundation