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Sustainable Development Goals summit 2023 and the global pledge on disability-focused early childhood development

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posted on 2024-02-29, 15:54 authored by Bolajoko O Olusanya, Vivian G Cheung, Mijna Hadders-Algra, Cecilia Breinbauer, Tracey Smythe, Marisol Moreno-Angarita, Sally Brinkman, Nihad Almasri, Marta Figueiredo, Olaf Kraus de Camargo, Ike Chinonye Nnanna, Sandra S Block, Claudine Storbeck, Jacob O Olusanya, Brad D Berman, Donald Wertlieb, Andrew N Williams, MKC Nair, Adrian C Davis, Scott M Wright

In September, 2023, the second global summit on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be held during the annual UN General Assembly for the midpoint appraisal of the 2015–30 Agenda for Sustainable Development.1

The summit will review the global progress in implementing the SDGs, consider new challenges that arose since 2015, provide updated policy guidance, and mobilise action to accelerate progress towards achieving the SDGs. This occasion provides a rare and timely opportunity to review the global commitment on early childhood development (ECD) for children younger than 5 years, and to leave no one behind (SDG 4.2).

Optimal ECD is foundational to the lifelong wellbeing of all children and for ensuring a fulfilling and healthy life.2

The global vision and commitment for ECD is to optimise school readiness for inclusive and equitable quality education for the most disadvantaged and marginalised children, especially for disabled children.1

Although several pledges had been made to address the needs of disabled children before 2015 (panel), SDG 4 is the first and only explicit global pledge to implement ECD in low-income and middle-income countries. This commitment was embodied in the overall global education agenda but the role of the health sector in promoting children's overall wellbeing and psychosocial development from birth until school entry was duly acknowledged.1

In preparation for the launch of the SDGs, UNESCO, as the specialised global agency for education, articulated an action plan for implementing SDG 4 in partnership with other relevant UN agencies, but apparently excluded WHO.3

The action plan for ECD and early care focused on preschool education and overlooked the importance of early detection of developmental disabilities and intervention for disabled children. In 2018, the Nurturing Care Framework was launched by WHO, UNICEF, and the World Bank as an independent global ECD initiative without inputs from UNESCO.4

The Nurturing Care Framework was, therefore, not explicitly linked to the global commitment on inclusive education for all children younger than 5 years under SDG 4. Rather, this framework primarily focuses on health-related issues in the first 1000 days from conception. Both WHO and UNICEF have now developed separate tools for ECD monitoring, namely: the Global Scale for Early Development for children aged 0–3 years, and the Early Childhood Development Index 2030 for children aged 2–5 years. Although efforts to combine these tools are ongoing, neither of these tools is designed for identifying all children younger than 5 years with disabilities for early and appropriate intervention as envisioned under SDG 4.2.



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The Lancet Global Health




Elsevier BV



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  • Published version


  • eng

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