Europe-wide Campaign for Prioritizing Early Childhood Development

ISSA and Eurochild, in partnership with the European Public Health Alliance and the Roma Education Fund, are co-leading the First Years, First Priority campaign advocating for the prioritization of early childhood development (ECD) in public policies and funding to ensure every child in Europe aged between birth and 6 years old receive a fair start in life.

The Campaign was launched on 15 December 2020 and aims to bring change for young children in Europe by:

  1. Raising awareness on the importance of ECD at the EU and country level using compelling evidence.
  2. Building a community of ECD advocates at the national and EU levels to ensure ECD stays high on the political agenda.
  3. Leveraging EU policies and funding to support reforms and public investment at the national level.

In partnership with national partners from ten European countries – Bulgaria, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, and Spain, the Campaign aims to inform European and national policymakers, engage civil society organizations, and empower parents and families to advocate for their own rights and those of their children.

The Campaign reinforces the imperative to adopt through cross-sectoral policies, funding, and services a comprehensive approach to a child’s development in the early years, ranging from health and nutrition to family environment and support, from early learning to physical, mental, and social safety and security.

“Only by taking a comprehensive approach to all policies and services that impact early childhood development will we be able to break the cycle of disadvantage and ensure all youngest citizens in Europe have equal opportunities to safe, healthy, and optimal development from the very start in their life.” - Mihaela Ionescu, Program Director, International Step by Step Association (ISSA).

The Campaign prioritizes children from birth to 6 years old, with special attention to:

  • the first 1,000 days of the child’s life;
  • the most vulnerable children (Roma and Traveller children, children with disabilities, migrant and refugee children, children at risk of entering, or in, alternative care, and those living in extreme poverty).

“Families usually know what’s in their children’s best interest, but poverty and discrimination may limit parents’ potential to be the best they can be for their young children. With this Campaign, we want to influence policies and public spending on early childhood development in a way that is informed by evidence, and the views and experiences of parents themselves. Public investment can and should support and empower families and their young children.” - Jana Hainsworth, Eurochild Secretary General.

The Campaign is active in ten countries across Europe (Bulgaria, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain) under the leadership of national coordinators, who succeeded in creating broad coalitions of national partners for stronger impact at the national level.

Five ISSA member organizations are among the National Coordinators: For Our Children Foundation and Trust for Social Achievement (Bulgaria), Ensemble pour la Petite Enfance (France), Centro per la Salute del Bambino (Italy), and Centrul Step by Step (Romania).

Do you want to learn more about the First Years, First Priority Campaign’s vision, strategy, and resources? Visit the website.

Do you want to stay updated about the latest news and developments in the Campaign? Subscribe to the Newsletter.

The partnership

First Years, First Priority
 is a joint initiative of Eurochild and ISSA (the International Step by Step Association). The partnership pools respective strengths to campaign for the prioritisation of early childhood development in public policies across Europe. The European Public Health Alliance and Roma Education Fund are associate partners.

The First Years First Priority campaign is implemented with financial support from the Open Society Foundations and the European Programme of Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) 2014-2020.


For more information contact: 

Mihaela Ionescu, Program Director, ISSA

Photo: © UNICEF - John McConnico

ECD Initiative publications

cross-sectoral coordination for ECD
This case study is based on the Early Childhood Development Complexes of For Our Children Foundation (FoC), Bulgaria, that provided several different socially integrated services concentrated within reach, which together form a safety net for children and families. FoC in Bulgaria created the Early...
For Our Children Foundation
Ayça Alaylı,