South-South Cooperation on Early Childhood Development to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

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Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Morocco Nasser Bourita (centre) speaks alongside UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Omar Abdi (second left) Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mali Abdoulaye Diop (left) and Director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation Jorge Chediek (right) during the South-South Cooperation on Early Childhood Development to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals panel discussion, at United Nations Headquarters (UNHQ), Friday 22 September 2017.

New York, September 2017 – On the sidelines of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, UNICEF and the Government of Morocco co-hosted, on the 22nd September, a high-level meeting to promote South-South cooperation (SSC) on early childhood development (ECD). This meeting marked the first anniversary of the Rabat Declaration on ECD adopted at the international conference organized by the Government of Morocco with support from UNICEF. The declaration formalized the role of Morocco as a knowledge broker and partnerships catalyzer in this domain and a global partner in South-South cooperation. “Early childhood development is a common cause and a challenge for our societies and for the world at large. Morocco remains committed to working with the partner countries of the Rabat process, and in the framework of South-South cooperation, to promote the exchange of our respective experiences for the benefit of early childhood,” highlighted Nasser Bourita, the Moroccan minister of Foreign Affairs.

One of the main objectives of this side event organized at United Nations HQ was to emphasize the importance of cross-sectoral efforts by countries in the area of ECD as a central element for achieving the SDGs. Indeed, with the adoption of the 2030 Development Agenda and for the first time, ECD receives an explicit recognition in its specificity and in its instrumental role for advancing towards the achievement of most of the SDGs. There is now growing awareness among societies and policy makers, based on solid scientific evidence, that early childhood development is key to drive the transformation that will make achieving the SDGs possible.

“Forty-three percent of all children under the age of five in low and middle income countries are at higher risk of not reaching their developmental potential due to lack of nutrition and protection, limited access to quality health services, and inadequate early stimulation and care. With so much at stake, we must take action urgently, and support governments as they design and deliver programmes and services that will give their youngest citizens every opportunity to develop” highlighted Omar Abdi, UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director, during his intervention. From his side, Jorge Chediek, the Envoy of the UN General Secretary on SSC, commended the Government of Morocco’s active role in SSC as well as UNICEF’s growing engagement in South-South cooperation, especially showing how SSC supports delivery of programmes for children.

This high-level meeting brought together 10 African Ministers of Foreign Affairs in addition to the representatives of Middle-Eastern countries and International cooperation institutions including from the Islamic Development Bank, the African Development Bank and several other UN agencies. Many of the Government speakers who took the floor, Mali, Niger, Benin, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Comoros, Mauritania in addition to Morocco, spoke of their achievements and commitment to ECD, how they expect that this will contribute to poverty reduction and reduction of inequality, and their experience of SSC. Syed Aqa, Vice-President of the Islamic Development Bank, talked of the special role of the institution in promoting SSC given that all their member states are from the South and mentioned the existing platform on SSC that matches demand with local solutions. He particularly noted how, in facilitating SSC, IsDB seeks to leverage resources from participating countries with relatively modest seed funding from the Bank. The representative from the African Development Bank expressed commitment to ECD and its contributions to the SDGs.

The follow-up to the Rabat Declaration is now under way with high level of political commitment, including the establishment of an inter-country, inter-sectoral committee that will monitor the implementation of the engagements of the declaration by the countries involved.