(Photo © UNAOC)
Labouisse Hall, 3 UN Plaza – UNICEF
New York – September 20, 2013
Dr. Pia Rebello Britto, Senior Advisor Early Childhood Development (UNICEF)
Dr. Geeta Rao Gupta (Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF)
Dr. Rima Salah (Former Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF)
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honor for me, to speak at the launch of the Formative Childhood Peace Consortium. Promoting peace for young generations, families and communities is one of my main objectives during my tenure at the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC).
Let me start by recognizing Dr. Rima Salah and Dr. James Leckman whom I thank for their kind invitation to speak here today.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Formative Childhood Peace Consortium will occupy a unique niche in our global society with the aim of promoting peace and prosperity.
Right now, we face a volatile period in our common history. Increased violence in homes, schools, neighborhoods and countries generates lasting negative impacts on children, families and communities.
These matters are of grave concern to us. These situations of extreme conflict and violence limit access to education.
They contribute to the violation of human rights of children, traversing generation after generation. The damaging effects are even deeper than we could have ever imagined.
Violence triggers more violence. It is a vicious cycle that must be broken.
The time to act is now. We must address the root causes of violence through interventions that promote peace, conflict resolution, tolerance and forgiveness. This is the core vision and mission of the Alliance – namely, peace, development and prosperity.
This is where the Formative Childhoods Peace Consortium will serve as a positive force in advancing peace and forgiveness. By encouraging conversation about peace building among policy makers, the Consortium aims to drive progress towards sustained peace through early childhood development programs.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Latest and valid evidence has shown that early years of life and development are the strongest predictors of later life skills, competencies, attitudes and beliefs. The World Health Organization also emphasizes, that lower education levels in one’s earlier life are connected with poor health, increased stress, and inadequate self-confidence in later years.
Influencing neuro-biology during childhood years can have positive long-term effects on promoting peace. Evidence shows that one’s early years constitute the pivotal time during which momentous developmental progress is made. This includes growth in the areas of health, motor and cognitive functioning, language, and in particular, social and emotional development.
It has often been said that children are born innocent. As time passes, they learn to form their own opinions— distinguishing between good and bad, beautiful and unpleasant, friendship and animosity. These opinions are largely generated according to what they have been taught and exposed to.
Parents can profoundly shape their children’s beliefs and attitudes. By providing an atmosphere of tolerance in the home, they are instilling harmony and democratic values that further reduce violence and abuse. Tolerant mind-set is precisely what should be encouraged through educational tools as these children grow into adulthood. For these are the values which today’s youth will bestow upon the following generations. I can tell you that we, at the Alliance have developed cross-cutting initiatives in educating and empowering youth.
Furthermore, studies and findings suggest that parenting and early learning programs can effectively translate into communities of peace.
An appalling two-thirds of children under the age of four are believed to be victims of DIRECT violence, suffering physical and psychological abuse from their parents or guardians. Furthermore, an estimated 1.5 BILLION people currently experience structural violence from dwelling in conflict-ridden countries. The impact of this violence is most harmful during the early childhood years. To counter these detrimental effects, it is crucial that education also be provided to parents.
Evidence shows that adult participation in programs promoting peaceful living builds stronger communities. Educating parents and implementing early childhood development programs would garner peace within families, which would encourage peaceful communities which would hopefully one day foster peace across the entire world.
From this, the next generation of leaders, policy makers and voices of change will not only hold these values of peace, but also advocate them worldwide.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The formative childhood years are vital to the development of values, attitudes and beliefs. It is up to parents and educators to create the molds by which these beliefs and ideals can be shaped.
This fact is essential for generating policies and practices that promote harmony in our ever-changing world.
Up until now, efforts to promote have been made primarily through global policies and top-down approaches. But change cannot be propelled solely from the top. It is born early on and advances as it grows. Thus, change for our future and HOPE for the progression of peace starts with our children. They are the agents of change; they ARE our future.
Like us, our children understandably are not colorblind. As they grow, they are able to see, and to perceive race. They are learning to make decisions—decisions which will govern their actions and their treatment towards others.
The global consortium, therefore, can promote peace through early childhood development.
Its noble vision of creating a legacy of sustained peace by drawing on the transformative power of early childhood development will surely serve to prevent violence and promote peace.
Through the consortium, leaders in effective practice, new and emerging knowledge, finance, philanthropy, and international policy can come together to discuss effective strategies to advance early childhood development and peace.
That way, they can influence global and national policies through education. They can disseminate information using innovative strategies that draw on the latest technological advancements, to involve youth in advocating for early childhood development and peace.
Specifically, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations can serve as an advantageous tool in order to enhance the global consortium’s goals and vision.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Alliance of Civilizations is especially committed to the goal of achieving early childhood development and peace through education.
Specifically, education and youth, as I mentioned earlier, are two of the main pillars of focus of the UNAOC.
Today, the forces that move and drive the world are science, technology, music, literature, arts, and other fields of creativity. As such, I have added these as priorities during my tenure. I strive to incorporate these into initiatives related to early childhood development and education.
At the Alliance, we believe that improved education boosts intercultural dialogue, which, in turn, generates intercultural trust. Respect and tolerance for diversity is a direct result of early childhood education.
This, in turn, will not only reduce violence , but also prevent it in the future. By educating our children and promoting peace building values, we are paving a better future not only for them, but also for their children, and for each succeeding generation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We at the Alliance greatly value the worldwide potential of our youth. Accordingly, we have launched the Global Youth Movement, aiming to highlight and recognize the strong message of peace and understanding set forth by youth in times where tensions and conflicts threaten intercultural co-existence.
The Alliance established summer schools, based on the central principle that people share more commonalities than divisive differences, and when given the opportunity, they will explore those common interests, sparking collaborations and stimulating ideas that address major issues across the world.
These schools promote the empowerment of youth by strengthening intercultural skills and competencies. They solidify young people’s capacity to get involved in the preparation and implementation of cooperative action across divides. They also facilitate encounters and exchanges among youth from around the world. The lessons learned at these summer schools can be applied worldwide. Therefore, the global consortium can incorporate these ideas into its strategies.
One other activity which is worth mentioning is the Alliance Fellowship Programme launched in 2009. It aims at facilitating exposure for emerging leaders worldwide to media, culture, politics, institutions, civil society and religion. This generates knowledge exchange, cross-cultural understanding and productive partnerships across borders.
These emerging leaders can serve as a powerful resource for the global consortium. Their ideas, input and participation in the global consortium can expand the network of knowledge.
Lastly, I have the privilege of partnering with Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nassir of Qatar on her new global initiative, Educate A Child (EAC). I also currently serve as a board member of EAC. So far, 700,000 have been educated. Another 10 million are projected to be educated by 2015.
In November 2012, Her Highness Sheikha Moza launched EAC at the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), to address a dire need to increase enrollment and improve quality education worldwide.
This initiative strives to give millions of young children the opportunity to learn in quality education, particularly in regions of poverty, conflict, and natural disaster. Emphasizing childhood education as a basic human right, it targets “out of school” children, in the hopes of encouraging them to get back on the academic track.
Ladies and gentlemen,
All of these initiatives and programs can serve as resources to the Child Study Center’s global consortium. I am confident that the UNAOC’s collaboration with the Yale Child Study Center will help further both our respective, and shared, missions.
With our combined effort, we can make considerable advancements in the promotion of peace and early childhood development.
The whole world will not change automatically. Nor will it stand still and wait for us.
Regardless, I, personally, pledge to strengthen the ability of the Alliance to work closer with Yale University’s Child Study Center to advance our mutual goals.
In closing, let me say this, our world is a great, yet complex thing. To leave it to a generation which is unprepared, and unequipped with the proper principles and ethics, would be hazardous. Hence, instilling values of harmony and tolerance in our children through instruments of early education is vital for a peaceful future. The time for change is NOW. Let us benefit from today, for a better tomorrow.