Happy New Year!
The year 2014 is a new beginning for me and for OMEP, as my term as the World President of OMEP began 1 January, 2014. Let me first express my deepest gratitude to our national committees for nominating and electing me. I am incredibly honoured to be the first World President from Asia-Pacific. I would like to thank my predecessor, Prof. Ingrid Pramling Samuelsson, for her wonderful work in the past six years, particularly for increasing OMEP’s visibility and influence on the global stage. Thank you very much for all your trust and support.
The early childhood years, that is, from birth to eight years, provide an important window of opportunity to build a strong foundation for future human development. It is a highly sensitive period for physical, cognitive, social, emotional and behavioural development, and influences our development trajectories across the life course. Despite its importance, our children’s early years receive less attention than any other stage in a child’s journey towards adulthood. Evidence suggests that young children in many countries are not conductive to optimal early childhood development (ECD). They often have limited access to early childhood care and education programmes, at the same time are denied adequate support for early learning by caregivers. Risk factors such as poverty further lead to inequalities in ECD that undermine educational attainment and adult productivity, thereby perpetuating the vicious cycle across generations.
Established in 1948 with 19 member countries, OMEP has endeavoured to bring early childhood to the global centre of attention and promote development in early years, through policy advocacy, action programmes, research and education. Today we have 72 national committees worldwide, and is the oldest and largest international organisation promoting the health, well-being, rights and early education of the world’s children from birth to age eight.
With the concerted efforts of all 72 national committees, I and everyone in our new executive committee, including Dr. Judith Wagner, Deputy World President and Regional Vice President for North America and the Caribbean; Prof. Nirmala Rao, World Treasurer; Mrs. Abimbola Are, Regional Vice President for Africa; Prof. Eunhye Park, Regional Vice President for Asia Pacific; Dr. Nektarios Stellakis, Regional Vice President for Europe; and Lic. Mercedes Mayol Lassalle, Regional Vice President for Latin America, will continue our mission to raise awareness of the importance of early childhood. Our priorities include
- promoting more cross-continent advocacy and research collaborations;
- fostering a culture of developing annual strategic plans with benchmarks for the national committees to achieve;
- securing private sector-based fundraising for OMEP, through corporate engagement and partnerships; and
- enhancing our brand image and improving public education.
In fact, since last year, we have been busy preparing for our upcoming duties. To seek further international collaboration opportunities and to build political support for ECD, in early September, Nirmala and I participated in the Asia Pacific Regional Policy Forum on Early Childhood Care and Education in Seoul, wherein she delivered an influential keynote address on how to advance equity in ECD to almost 200 high-level governmental representatives from 36 countries in the Asia-Pacific Region. On 30 September, 2013, Dr. Ingrid Engdahl, President of OMEP Sweden, and I went to Geneva to attend the Launch of the United Nations’ General Comment on Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child hosted by the International Play Association’s (IPA), and I was very honoured to present OMEP’s perspectives on play at the panel session to many international child rights advocates. In early October, I went to Buenos Aires to discuss OMEP’s future development strategies with Mercedes and the Argentine national committee. In November, Nirmala, Eunhye and I went to the Asia-Pacific Regional ECD Conference held by the Asia-Pacific Network for Early Childhood (ARNEC) in Singapore to convey OMEP’s position of ECD on the global agenda. It was there we built important partnerships with various international agencies for advocating ECD as an unambiguous priority in the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda.
To continue the momentum, on 12 December, OMEP organized its first ministerial level event in New York during the 6th Session of the Open Working Group on SDGs along with the Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development, UNICEF, Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and SOS Children’s Villages. Ingrid Pramling Samuelsson, Judith and I served as OMEP’s representatives on the event planning team. The event was a success and we are planning to have another one on 13 February, 2014. We are looking forward to actualize our dream of having ECD as the separate goal in SDGs and, thereby, creating a better world for our future generation.
As we begin this exciting journey, we need a better, more interactive and responsive means to keep our members as well as interested audience informed of our many new developments. I, therefore, present you this new and improved website, with now an easy-to-remember URL. For our existing companions and colleagues, you can find all the information that was available on our previous website, plus new features such as a responsive layout to provide an optimal viewing experience, an event calendar which neatly displays the major events in our five regions, and a web portal for more efficient communication (will be available for our national committees in February). For our new friends, I invite you to take a look around and subscribe to our mailing list to get a better understanding of our organisation and up-to-date information on our work.
Please join us to defend and promote the rights of young children to education and care worldwide and welcome to our new WorldOMEP.org!