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Human Capital Summit shines a spotlight on the need for investment in the early years

  |   SUN Country Network, SUN Donor Network

early-yearsOn 6 October 2016, the World Bank Group convened a groundbreaking Human Capital Summit on the opening day of their Annual Meetings, to make the economic case for investing in the early years of children to drive future growth and development. Ministers from nine countries pledged to improve nutrition, health and education programs for young children to dramatically reduce childhood stunting and equip tens of millions of young children with the abilities they need to succeed in a fast changing world. They are the first wave of countries expected to make similar pledges over the next few years to tackle childhood malnutrition, lack of early stimulation and learning, and other problems affecting the health and development of children.

Poor nutrition, few opportunities for early learning and stimulation, and toxic environments literally hardwire young children to miss out on opportunities to learn and later to earn good wages, but when Heads of Government and Ministers of Finance commit to fight stunted development and nurture the power of children’s brains, we can avert future crises where people and economies will not reach their full potential.”

Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim llustrated the dangers of undernutrition, under-stimulation, and other threats to the health and welfare of young children in a presentation at the beginning of the event. He stressed that investing in the early years is one of the smartest investments a country can make to break the cycle of poverty, address inequality, and boost productivity later in life.

If our children are not healthy and well nourished, they will not be able to go to school and they will not be able to learn well; as adults they will not be able to find good jobs with good earnings so we will not have a productive, safe and secure society. This is why for me, for my government and for my country, the reduction of stunting by 10 percent during my period is the most important priority.”

H.E. Jimmy Morales, President of Guatemala and SUN Movement Lead Group member.


Recognizing that nutrition, stimulation, and safe environments for young children have a direct bearing on learning, health, behavior, incomes, and national economic development, the Prime Minister of Cote d’Ivoire, and Finance and Economic Ministers of Cameroon, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Madagascar, Pakistan, Senegal, and Tanzania pledged strong action at home on a number of fronts to put tens of millions of children on the right track.

Read the World Bank Press Release

Read a blog by Donna Barne of the World Bank

Visit the Early Childhood Development website of the World Bank

Access the World Bank resources on Early Childhood Development

Learn more about the host, Julie Gichuru,

Country statements

Cameroon: Louis Paul Motazé, Minister of Economy, Planning and Regional Development

The Government of Cameroon has been firmly committed to investing in early childhood in Cameroon, with a view to continuing its rapid economic and social development. We intend to reduce the chronic malnutrition rate among under-fives from 32% to 25% by 2019.  To achieve these outcomes, we will continue to pursue a multisectoral approach that creates synergies among our education, health, and safety nets programs focusing in particular on the northern and eastern regions of the country.

Cote d’Ivoire: Daniel Kablan Duncan, Prime Minister

In May 2016 we launched the National Multisector Plan for Nutrition which will mobilize $470 million to scale up investments in nutrition, of which the Government of Cote d’Ivoire is funding US$70 million. Leaders must guarantee universal access to essential services for the development of young children.

Ethiopia: Ato Abdulaziz Mohammed, Minister of Finance and Economic Cooperation

IDA has been a key supporter and partner in our efforts to address the challenges we face in our early years agenda. We are moving forward with an additional US$150 million for a health project which includes a strong nutrition component. We are also requesting US$900 million in additional resources to support the early years agenda in education and social protection. We will complement these national efforts with US$600 million for decentralized services to support local health, education, and agriculture services.

Indonesia: Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Minister of Finance

Indonesia has a number of efforts to improve results for the early years, including a conditional cash transfer program to incentivize behavior change and promote child development; and an earmarked fund to support early childhood education. Indonesia will also improve institutional effectiveness through harmonized policies and better coordination among different government institutions and civil society.

Madagascar: Gervais Rakotoarimanana, Minister of Finance and Budget

We have accorded priority to the social sectors, focusing specifically on actions that will improve conditions for mothers and children. The Ministry of Education is preparing a new education sector strategy that includes preschool education. We are piloting several types of interventions aimed at reducing chronic malnutrition and our social protection policy includes conditional cash transfers designed to encourage children to attend school and mothers to participate in stimulation activities for young children.

Pakistan: Waqar Masood Khan, Finance Secretary, Pakistan

Pakistan plans to strengthen political leadership and institutional arrangements, and implement priority early childhood interventions through multiple key sectors at large scale. We plan to aim for innovation and partnerships with private sector using public financing and to commit increased funding from the Government.

Tanzania: Philip Isdor Mpango, Minister for Finance and Planning, United Republic of Tanzania

The Tanzania Social Action Fund provides conditional cash transfers to the poorest 15% of households, to promote prenatal care and pre-primary school enrollment. We are also using results-based financing to improve nutrition outcomes, as well as innovative financing initiatives which leverage the private sector, including the Power of Nutrition.

Senegal: Amadou Ba, Minister of Economy and Finance, Senegal

Investing in early childhood in Senegal will generate returns through increased internal and external efficiency in education, enhanced productivity, the country’s human resources, employability, and increased revenues in the long term, thus resulting in higher, more sustainable, and more inclusive economic growth.

Early Childhood Development at the World Bank

Early Childhood Development (ECD) features prominently within the World Bank Group’s Education Strategy 2020, which sets the goal of Learning for All through three pillars: Invest Early, Invest Smartly, Invest for All. ECD is also a strong component of the World Bank’s health and nutrition, and social protection strategies. The World Bank is expanding its global ECD knowledge through strong research and impact evaluations. Recently, the WBG published a new guide for policy makers and practitioners about how to invest in young children titled Stepping up Early Childhood Development. This guide identifies 25 essential interventions that span the education, health, nutrition, water, sanitation, and social protection sectors. It also launched an eLearning course on strategies to help children get a head start.


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