Paul Allsworth, the acting secretary of Ministry of Internal Affairs, attended the Pacific Early Childhood Conference 2017 in Fiji last month where this endorsement was made.
Alongside Allsworth, Ministry of Education secretary Gail Townsend, Danielle Cochrane (Ministry of Education), Roana Mataitini (Ministry of Health) and Angelia Williams (Ministry of Finance) also represented the Cook Islands at the conference.
During the conference from September 19 to 21 in Nadi, it was also noted that the Cook Islands is a “leader in ECD” in the Pacific.
The “Pasifika Call to Action for ECD” is a key regional document that will guide post-conference actions on early childhood development.
It identifies nine main action points for Pacific Island governments to strengthen ECD in their country.
They include the incorporation of ECD into national and sector development plans, provision of requisite ECD resources, promotion of better collaboration across ministries and increase of government investments in ECD.
The Call to Action also outlines a plan to monitor how countries are holding up to their commitments, including reporting on ECD developments at relevant ministerial forums.
Allsworth said the conference was relevant to Internal Affairs, as far as child and youth development was concerned.
He said key social and economic development indicators show that ECD is a priority area for governments and the private sector to invest in.
“I personally found this conference very beneficial as it provided scientific evidence from leading professors and world renown academics that investing in the first 1000 days of a child’s development, will result in high future yields in social and economic development for a country,” Allsworth said.
“Economic data has proven that countries like South Korea and Singapore, who heavily invested in ECD over 20-30 years ago are now seeing the benefits in their respective populations.”
Allsworth said the endorsement of the “Pasifika Call to Action on ECD” by member states needed to be submitted to Cabinet for approval and for the key sector agencies to implement the eight provisions and the two monitoring provisions.
He said government provides the appropriate resources to the key sectoral agencies in order to successfully implement and achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets for ECD.
“The long term benefits to the Cook Islands for present and future ECD investment would be enormous,” Allsworth said.
“Investments in ECD are vital for individuals and societies to reach their full potential. ECD is reflected across the other SDG’s, with multiplier effects that help fulfil both global and regional goals related to poverty, hunger, nutrition, social and emotional development, health and well-being, gender, work and economic growth, inequality, sustainable living and peace.”
The first ever Pacific Early Childhood Conference was organised by the World Bank and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).