Blog | Early childhood development and the 2015 development programme by Tessa Jowell

AnnaHope | 10 Sep

Across the world, 165 million children under 5 years are stunted, 6.6 million children die before their 5th birthday and 57 million children miss out on the opportunity to go to school. 


These children are failing to reach their full potential, and together we can act to end this. It is all of our responsibility, not just that of developing countries, to help meet these challenges and give every child no matter where they live the best start in life.


That is why I am leading a global campaign to press the case for investment in early childhood development.


The Millennium Development Goals have provided a clear global route-map for poverty reduction and development over the past 15 years, but now discussion has turned to what will follow these goals when they reach their deadline at the end of 2015.


The campaign aims to ensure that an integrated approach to early childhood development is reflected across this new Post-2015 Development Framework.


The campaign has gone from strength-to-strength. In July 2013 I visited Malawi with Sightsavers to see the impact that early childhood development programmes were having on some of the poorest children in the world and their families. The Ministers we met set out the compelling case for dedicated action.


Last September we launched an online petition which aimed to mobilise global grassroots support for this issue. In 8 months we managed to get over 12,000 signatures from 170 countries, testament to the scale of global concern.


In June I presented this petition to Amina Mohammed, the UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning and addressed a campaign event at the UN alongside representatives from the Colombian, Ecuadorian and Italian Governments, China Development Research Foundation and former-World Bank President James Wolfensohn.


I have been consistently impressed with the broad support for action from high-level representatives to the mothers bringing up their children in poor rural communities in Malawi. I am continually struck by the parallels between conversations I have had with mothers in inner city London and those whose playgroups were in a rural shack in Malawi. There is a universal language of childhood and entitlements which compels us all to act.


Now as we enter the final year of deliberations, we must maintain momentum. The campaign must continue so that when countries consider progress between 2015 -2030, improving the lives of young children is a baseline against which they will measure success.


This call for action is supported by a growing fund of scientific evidence about how with the right interventions the opportunities of children in early childhood can be cherished and realised. We know how to prevent children being stunted, we know how to prevent mothers dying in childbirth through the absence of trained obstetric staff. We know how to prevent the death of 3 million babies in the first month of life. 


As the UN General Assembly sits to open this last year of the Post-2015 process we must now turn to how we can encourage national-level action. 


We can start with our own Government by encouraging them to champion at an international level the foundational values of SureStart, which I set up in Government with David Blunkett. Only by investing in young children can we have any hope of eliminating the poverty that continues to rob people all over the world of the opportunities they deserve. 


There is a great prize to be won, and I am optimistic we can reach our goal because of the strength of the argument and the ever increasing number of people who want to support our campaign. It is up to all of us now to ensure that early childhood development is enshrined in the 2015 development programme.