Date: 08-12-2023

First Years, First Priority Campaign in 2023: Stronger Advocacy for ECD

In recent years, we have learned the importance of community support amidst widespread uncertainty. In 2023, this community was evident among the collaborators of the First Years, First Priority (FYFP) campaign, which is co-led by ISSA and Eurochild and active in ten countries across Europe under the leadership of National Coordinators*.  

This year, building on previous advocacy work and collaboration to bring more focus to early childhood development (ECD) on the political agenda across Europe, partners brought new evidence documents and influenced the language of a new European Parliament resolution – making 2023 a strong year for advocacy in ECD.

Building the evidence for ECD: FYFP’s Thematic Papers

In 2023, FYFP’s campaign has centered extensively on supporting young children and caregivers facing compounded adversities, including those from Roma communities, migrants and refugees, and children with disabilities. ISSA collaborated with Eurochild and allied networks like the European Associations of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) and the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), to develop three thematic papers. These papers delve into the present realities of European children and families, evaluate pertinent EU and national policies, and showcase exemplary programs and practices at the country level. As an advocacy tool, they present crucial recommendations for policymakers at both the EU and national levels.

Advocacy events and actions in 2023

During Roma Week 2023, we co-organized an event ‘Unlocking the Potential of Young Roma Children’, hosted by Milan Brglez MEP. At the event we presented the campaign and highlighted the importance of early childhood development for young Roma children. The event issued a call to action urging European policymakers to make specific and concrete steps toward inclusion.

Under the Spanish EU Presidency, the Campaign partners continued to highlight the importance of children’s early years in the implementation of the European Child Guarantee. We participated in a high-level meeting of Child Guarantee National Coordinators, hosted by the Spanish government. The meeting agreed on the ‘Valencia Declaration’ to fight child poverty and early childhood inequalities, which is expected to be endorsed by all EU Member States by the end of 2023.

FYFP’s work to influence policy documents

On 22 November 2023, the European Parliament adopted an important Resolution, ‘Children first – strengthening the Child Guarantee, two years on from its adoption’. The Resolution was led by Dragos Pîslaru MEP, a key supporter of the First Years, First Priority campaign. Campaign partners submitted some amendments to the draft text, and the final Resolution includes several references to the importance of investing in early childhood. The Resolution also calls for increased EU funding for the Child Guarantee and the establishment of a European authority for children. This accomplishment not only validates the campaign's efforts but also sets a precedent for future advocacy work in early childhood development across Europe. The adoption of this Resolution is expected to have a profound impact, as it embeds the campaign's priorities into European policy, ensuring that early childhood development remains at the forefront of the European agenda.

A shared commitment to putting ECD on the political agenda across Europe

The campaign’s co-leads and associate partners (the European Public Health Alliance and the Roma Education Fund), as well as the national coordinators remain committed to this advocacy work as we look toward critical elections in 2024.

In 2024, the European Parliament Elections will be a key focus. Partners have already shared our key messages with political groups and are working with other organizations to ensure that the EU’s focus on child poverty, on children’s rights and on early childhood are maintained and increased in the new Parliament and the new European Commission that will follow.

Learn more about FYFP’s advocacy to ensure early childhood development stays high on the political agenda.


*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).