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.
  3. Leveraging EU policies and funding to support reforms and public investment at the national level.

The First Years First Priority campaign is looking to build a strong community of ECD advocates at the EU and national levels to ensure ECD stays high on the political agenda. In partnership with national partners from nine European countries – Bulgaria, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, 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.

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 will run in 9 countries across Europe (Bulgaria, Hungary, France, Finland, Ireland, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Romania) under the leadership of national coordinators, who will help create broad coalitions of national partners for stronger campaigns at the national level.

Three ISSA Member organizations are among the National Coordinators: Trust for Social Achievement (Bulgaria), Ensemble for Early Childhood Education (France), and the Step by Step Center for Education and Professional Development (Romania).

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

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The partnership

Eurochild is a network of almost 200 member organizations from 35 European countries working with and for children throughout Europe, striving for a society that respects the rights of children.

International Step by Step Association (ISSA) is an early childhood regional network that connects early childhood practice, research, and policy to improve the quality of early childhood systems in Europe and Central Asia.

European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) is Europe’s leading NGO alliance advocating for better health and is made up of public health NGOs, patient groups, health professionals, and disease groups.

Roma Education Fund (REF) wants to close the gap in educational outcomes between Roma and non-Roma by supporting policies and programs which ensure quality education for Roma, including the desegregation of education systems.

The Europe-wide Campaign on Early Childhood Development (ECD) 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