Abu Dhabi’s World Early Childhood Development Movement (WED Movement) has launched a new initiative bringing together global experts to develop innovative and actionable solutions advancing Abu Dhabi’s vision to be a leader in Early Childhood Development.
WED Movement was established earlier this year under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA). Under ECA, WED Movement is harnessing the expertise of a multidisciplinary group of 21 early child development experts representing a mix of academics, healthcare practitioners, policy influencers, children’s media and entertainment specialists, global business leaders and technical consultants. The experts come from several world-renowned institutions such as UNICEF, World Bank, UNESCO and Harvard University, as well as a number of global companies in technology and entertainment.
Participants are working in one of three Breakthrough Working Groups (BWGs), each focused on a unique and important aspect of how children’s mental, physical and cognitive abilities develop in the earliest years of life, from pregnancy to 8 years old. The BWGs are focused on Emotional Wellbeing & Social Interaction, Tech Humanity for Children, and 21st Century Lifestyle.
To date the BWGs have held nearly 100 strategic planning sessions and met with more than 65 parents, children, teachers and ECD experts in the UAE as part of their work towards creation of a series of innovative solutions that promote the holistic healthy development of Abu Dhabi’s young children. These solutions will also help parents and caregivers address some of the most common challenges faced during the earliest years of child growth and development. Outcomes from these sessions include policy recommendations, creation of specific programs and initiatives, development of products, as well as guidelines to address the identified issues.
Team members are coordinating directly with a range of government and social service entities, including Abu Dhabi Department of Community Development, Abu Dhabi Department of Health, Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge and Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination. They also have commissioned independent research on such issues as child screen time, technology use in the home, play time and social interaction.
WED Movement and the work of the BWGs reflects Abu Dhabi’s commitment to deliver on its vision to invest in breakthrough innovation in early childhood development with the goal of nurturing a generation of conscious youth who have the knowledge and skills to adapt to rapidly changing societal challenges and contribute to building a better society. The BWGs aim to play a significant role driving the level of innovation needed while helping establish Abu Dhabi as a global role model for and contributor to excellence in early childhood development.
The BWGs work under the guidance of Co-Chairs Cecilia Vaca Jones, Executive Director of the Bernard van Leer Foundation, and His Excellency Omar Saif Ghobash, Assistant Minister for Culture and Public Diplomacy.
Chair Cecilia Vaca-Jones said: “This Breakthrough Working Group approach enables us to tap into a global collection of world-class early childhood development experts with a single mission and focus: helping Abu Dhabi create the best possible environment to give our children the opportunity in life each and every one deserves. And these new programs, policies and initiatives that we pioneer here at home can become models for early childhood development that are adopted in nations around the world.”
The BWGs are currently researching and assessing issues as well as exploring potential solutions related to the following themes:
- Emotional Wellbeing and Social Interaction: Creating an ecosystem that can help reduce emotional strains on children, parents and caregivers while promoting continuous interactions with children that help them establish important social interaction skills at early ages.
- Tech Humanity for Children: Looking at how to ensure that children are ready for the rapidly growing level of technology in their lives and are well aware of and protected from risks in order to best reap the many benefits these new technologies offer.
- 21st Century Lifestyle: Fostering an Abu Dhabi-wide environment that promotes a better lifestyle at home, in school and across the community and facilitates positive physical and mental health of children.
Co-Chair H.E. Omar Saif Ghobash said: “These themes represent both challenges and opportunities for fostering early childhood development not only in Abu Dhabi but across the UAE and worldwide. Through this team of experts and the BWG approach, we will look to generate recommended programs, policies and initiatives that can have a positive impact across the early childhood development ecosystem on behalf of our children, including parents and caregivers, academia, government policymakers, social support groups and the private sector.”
Dr. Nikki Martyn, Program Head of Early Childhood Studies at the University of Guelph-Humber and a member of the one of the BWGs said: “Being a part of WED Movement is a truly unique opportunity to take the learnings and experiences of early childhood development experts from around the world and develop initiatives and recommendations that can quickly be put in place to directly benefit the children of Abu Dhabi. Over the longer term, we hope to see the outcomes of WED Movement work benefitting children around the world.”