I am finally back at home and have some time to sit down and write about some recent happenings.
The 2016 OMEP World Assembly and Conference
First and foremost, of course, I must talk about our most important event of the year, the 2016 OMEP World Assembly and Conference, held in Seoul, Korea between July 4 and 8. This was the last World Assembly and Conference I chaired as the World President of OMEP. My mind was a myriad of emotions. I was really happy to see old and new friends from 46 countries. Both the Assembly and Conference this year were, in fact, some of the most well-attended events of OMEP ever. We had more than 640 early childhood researchers, practitioners, policymakers, advocates, teacher trainers and future teachers from around the world joined us in Seoul. I sincere thank each and every one for sharing wisdom and insight with us.
OMEP is now established in almost 70 countries worldwide, and remains as the oldest and largest international organization promoting the health, well-being, rights and early education of the world’s children from birth to age eight. This year, we welcomed OMEP-Venezuela as our newest Preparatory Committee. The World Assembly was delighted to award three committees National Committee status: OMEP-Bosnia and Herzegovina, OMEP-Myanmar and OMEP-Pacific Island Nations. We canceled the membership of OMEP-Malaysia upon the request of the National President but a new committee is being formed at the moment. We look forward to a new Malaysian committee in the World Assembly in 2017.
The World Assembly recognized six individuals, who have dedicated their lives and work to the education and the care of young children, as Honorary Members. They are: Madeline Dawn Butterworth (Australia), Miyako Ohto (Japan), Eunhwa Lee (Korea), Simeon Dimkpa Ojims (Nigeria), Ulla Grob-Menges (Switzerland) and Nancy María Larraya de Oronoz (Uruguay). They truly deserve the special recognition and I am honored to have worked with most of them.
I would also like to once again congratulate the newly elected Executive Committee members: Eunhye Park (World President), Eli Bergsvik (World Treasurer) and Udomluck Kulapichitr (Regional Vice-President for Asia Pacific). Our Regional Vice-President Mercedes Mayol Lassalle also got reelected. Their term will start on January 1, 2017. I thank our present World Treasurer Nirmala Rao for her continuous contributions to OMEP and we will do everything possible to ensure a smooth transition.
During the few days of the World Assembly and Conference, we heard a lot of compliments on the top-notch venue and excellent hospitality, as well as the very professional staff and student helpers. The symposium sessions and workshops were well-attended, relevant and very helpful. All these could not have been achieved without the conference planning committee led by Eunhye Park, all of the supporting agencies, sponsors and helpers who contributed the grants and their efforts during the conference preparation. Congratulations on both a successful and a memorable conference. 감사합니다! (Thank you!) I hope they have a moment to catch their breath after the event.
The next World Assembly and Conference will be held in Europe again, in the beautiful town of Opatija, Croatia. I’m looking forward to have a more relaxing time at the 2017 World Assembly =)
More children than ever are forced to live through natural disasters, socio-economic shocks and/or conflict. According to the UNICEF, one in ten children globally lives in a conflict affected area. About one in three children globally live in high flood or drought risk areas. Millions of displaced, migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking children and their families throughout the world are living in fear and panic.
Therefore, our World Declaration, announced at the World Conference this year, urgently calls on our local, national, and global leaders to address the rights and needs of the youngest, displaced, migrant, refugee, and asylum-seeking children. We must (1) ensure humanitarian and just conditions, (2) create public policies and mechanisms that allow transparent treatment and realistic assessment of young children, (3) provide secure places for children to play and learn, and (4) educate teachers and caregivers to work successfully with children. For details of the World Declaration, please click here.
Play and Resilience
Our Play and Resilience World Project is trying to contribute to the above, by supporting the development and resilience of young children through play, conducted in a safe, child friendly, and stimulating environment. If you have followed us closely or attended the World Conference, you’ve probably noticed that we concluded the first phase of the World Project and selected seven outstanding projects among the 36 applications we received. We invited the project leaders to give a short presentation at our Play and Resilience Symposium, which was held on the last day of the 2016 OMEP World Conference. The projects were all extremely well-planned, meaningful and often touching. I was so grateful for everyone’s participation and support. In fact, I did shed some happy tears =)
The symposium marked the first of a series of Play and Resilience Symposia in our plan. In the coming November, we will host a side event entitled “Teaching Peace and Building Resilience in Young Children through Play” during the Geneva Peace Week at the United Nations Office at Geneva. We are also very much looking forward to extend the World Project further. We are currently in talks with the UNESCO and a few potential donors for funding and collaboration opportunities. We will sure let you know more when more information becomes available.
Asia Pacific Regional Policy Forum on Early Childhood Education 2016
Soon after the World Conference, I joined ministers and vice-ministers overseeing education from 35 countries, as well as representatives from UN agencies and NGOs at the Asia-Pacific Regional Policy Forum on Early Childhood Care and Education, which was organized by UNESCO, UNICEF, the Asia-Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood (ARNEC) and the Malaysian Ministry of Education, in Putrajaya, Malaysia between July 19 and 21. I was honored to be one of the panel speakers. I pointed out the position of OMEP on supporting children in disaster and reiterated the importance of developing resilience through play. Children are agents of peace.
Meeting with Co-Facilitators of UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants
As an OMEP’s representatives at the United Nations, I joined our Main Representative Maria Pia Belloni and other NGO representatives in New York on July 28 for the Meeting with Co-Facilitators of United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants. We advocated strongly for early childhood education, which was eventually included in article 4.18 of the draft of the outcome paper (“We will support early childhood education for refugee children”). The Summit will be held on September 19 at the United Nations Headquarters. We hope it will raise awareness of the refugee children’s right to receive quality early childhood education and help more children in need.
Thank you for all your support and I will write more in the next issue.