01.06.2005 Regional News

Put promises into action- Consultant

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Accra, June 1, GNA - A Ghanaian Consultant on Early Childhood Development (ECD) on Wednesday asked African governments to turn the promises made on children's rights into accelerated actions that would transform the prospects of children in the region.

Mrs Agnes Akosua Aidoo, the Consultant, said: "Countries have made essential commitments to ensure children's rights in Africa. The time has come to turn the promises into accelerated actions to transform the prospects of the region's youngest and most vulnerable children." She said opportunities existed at the country, regional and international level that could be utilised to scale up the policy response to the unrealised rights of children.

Mrs Aidoo was presenting a paper on: "Ensuring a Supportive Policy Environment" at the Third African International Conference on Early Childhood Development taking place in Accra.

The five-day meeting is on the theme: "Moving Early Childhood Development Forward in AFrica".

Mrs Aidoo catalogued several actions required to move ECD issues faster in Africa and said in the face of competing priorities and pressures, there was need for political will, clear vision and courage of governments to undertake the following steps. To take ownership of the well-being of the all children, starting with the youngest and most vulnerable and to use the expanding democratic processes to focus and give priority to children and women's rights as part of human rights.

Countries should develop or strengthen holistic policies for ECD (from zero to eight years), enact necessary legislation on ECD and ensure enforcement and designate the most strategic mechanisms in the government structure to promote the ECD policies. Concerned groups, government sectors and partners should be obliged to give priority to ECD, support and fund its activities separately through the pooling of resources for children. On the promotion of advocacy, social mobilisation and information of ECD, Mrs Aidoo called on governments, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and other partners to engage in continuous advocacy for human rights-based and holistic ECD policy development and implementation at all levels.

They should also develop and implement a culture-sensitive social mobilisation, communication and information strategy to facilitate acceptance of ECD policy, translate ECD policy and other relevant documents into local languages and involve the Media in policy formulation, advocacy and monitoring.

The consultant said the Statistical Services Department, research institutions and partners should undertake research to fill gaps in knowledge such as the importance of traditional care practices, numbers and the situation of especially vulnerable young people affected by HIV/AIDS, orphans and children with special needs.

Mrs Aidoo said there was need to ensure adequate capacity in the focal Ministry or structure for ECD policy and programme coordination, advocacy, and monitoring. Such a Ministry, structure or institution should actively engage in cross-sectoral and institutional dialogue and technical cooperation to promote ECD and avoid isolation. On building and sustaining partnership in policy development and implementation, she said ECD partnership should include parents and communities, whose contributions at household and community levels were very crucial and indispensable for the survival, development and protection of young children.

Mrs Aidoo further called for effective linkages of ECD policies and programmes with major national development policies and frameworks in the planning and revisions of national development plans and visions such as the Millennium Development Goals, New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and Poverty Reduction Strategies. "Invest in and allocate adequate resources to ECD by ensuring enough budgetary resources and investment with a leverage resources for young child care, development and protection from bilateral, multi-lateral and NGO funds especially for vaccines and other required logistics", the Consultant said.

She said African governments must recognise that the present critical situation of children was unacceptable and urgent and sustained action was needed to secure the best start in life, continuous healthy growth and safe development for all children from zero to eight years, who were the foundation of Africa's human capital.

The Conference is a follow-up to others held in 1999 and 2002 in Kampala, Uganda and Asmara, Eritrea, respectively. A policy document expected from the Conference would serve as an input to the NEPAD meeting in June 2005 in Algiers, Algeria.

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