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Abu Dhabi opens World Early Childhood Development Forum

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ABU DHABI, 15th March, 2022 (WAM) — The first annual WED (World Early Childhood Development) Forum opened today at Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, with the participation of H.H. Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of the Interior, and Chairman of the National Council for Quality of Digital Life.

The event is held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Crown Prince Court and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA).

Established by Abu Dhabi’s Early Childhood Authority (ECA), the WED Movement gathered leading experts and innovators to develop the best possible solutions that would impact the lives of young children and evolve the early childhood sector in Abu Dhabi and beyond.

The inauguration was attended by Hussain bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Minister of Education; Jameela bint Salem Al Muheiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Chief of Dubai Schools Inspections Bureau at Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA); Dr. Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, Chairman of the Department of Community Development and Member of the Board of Trustees; Sara Awad Issa Musallam, Chairperson of the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge; Awaidha Murshed Ali Al Marar, Chairman, Abu Dhabi Department of Energy; Falah Mohammed Al Ahbabi, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Waste Management Centre (Tadweer); Ali Rashid Qannas Al Kitbi, Chairman of the Department of Government Support; in addition to several general managers of governmental and private institutions, and editors-in-chief of local newspapers and media.

Lt. General Sheikh Saif said, “I value the strides made to develop solutions that positively affect the lives of our children, work to provide a friendly, supportive environment for their development and protect them from the dangers surrounding them. I congratulate you on this forum and hope it will be beneficial in bringing innovative practices in Early Childhood Development. I also thank the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority, chaired by H.H. Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Crown Prince Court, for their efforts in building and developing knowledge platforms that enhance the UAE’s efforts in building the future generation, including the WED movement to address current and future challenges that affect our children.”

“Although international reports in 2020 indicated an increase in sexual exploitation cases of children globally via the internet by 106 percent during the pandemic, compared to 2019, the UAE succeeded in achieving a decrease of 34 percent in cases, thanks to the guidance of the visionary leadership and the relentless efforts of national and international partnerships. I, therefore, would like to call on the international community to play a greater role in the interest of our future, our children today and tomorrow, and I call on social media companies to show more cooperation and effort to protect children in the digital world,” Sheikh Saif added.

H.H. Sheikh Theyab lauded the ECA’s efforts to host Abu Dhabi’s first global Early Childhood Development Forum on the occasion of Emirati Children’s Day to mark this special occasion. He highlighted the importance and benefits the forum brings for all children and its role in inspiring all parties involved in early childhood development and encouraging them to play a vital role in achieving the required transformation in this vital sector.

Sarah Musallam opened the forum’s activities with a speech that shed light on the power of creativity and essential skills that our children will rely on in their future development journey.

On its first day, the event mobilised over 250 global leaders, innovators, policymakers, ECD experts, academics, and practitioners in a joint effort to advance the state of the ECD in Abu Dhabi and beyond and achieve the strategic Abu Dhabi 2035 vision for the ECD that ultimately ensures that every young child is provided with the best possible opportunity to be healthy, confident, curious, and able to learn and develop strong values in a safe and family-friendly environment in Abu Dhabi.

During the first day, delegates were invited to immerse themselves in the forum’s interactive space, designed to recreate a child’s big life events of growth and development, seen through the eyes of four children with different social backgrounds and profiles.

Focusing on key challenges identified in the WED Movement’s main themes – Tech Humanity for Children, 21st Century Lifestyle, Emotional Wellbeing and Social Interactions – members of the Breakthrough Working Groups alongside regional and international policy influencers honed the prevailing ECD challenges faced in the out-turn of the pandemic.

WED Talks held today, such as “Reflecting on our Systemic Responses to the Impact of COVID-19 on Children of Determination” reviewed the recent interventions provided to these children, calling for the need to expand and improve access to services.

Dr. Timothy Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics, said, “Children of Determination are often among our most vulnerable and yet important members of society. The chance for all of us to flourish depends on their opportunities to flourish. They deserve a chance to reach their potential, live a healthy, safe and happy life, thrive, learn and have the opportunity to contribute to their communities. The pandemic has unquestionably shown that we need to do more and better when providing support to Children of Determination and their families.”

The session yielded several ideas to tackle the gaps. Among those discussed was utilising technology to support learning outcomes for Children of Determination. Other key WED talks included “The Ethical Questions Around Monitoring Children’s Development Through Technology”, and “Approaches to Gaming Addiction: Guiding Responsible Gaming Habits for Children and Parents”, among many others.

Taking part in the sessions were the WED Movement’s partners, Mubadala, the Visionary Partner, Daman and ADNOC as Official Partners, Miral as WED Destination Partner, Manchester City Football Schools UAE, Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, UNICEF and BvLF as Supporters, as well as members of Abu Dhabi Government Media Office, Crown Prince Court, Abu Dhabi Executive Office, Department of Community Development, Statistics Centre of Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Digital Authority, Department of Health, Abu Dhabi, Department of Education and Knowledge, Supreme Council of Motherhood and Childhood, Abu Dhabi Judicial Department and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

The WED Movement, launched in 2021 by the ECA, brings together the world’s leading experts, innovators, and disruptors to develop solutions on key themes for discussion and output through its Breakthrough Working Groups (BWGs). These outputs are created as actionable initiatives to impact the lives of children positively and are intended to empower the collective ECD ecosystem.

Day 2 of the forum will explore essential topics such as Investments re-imagined “Why is Early Childhood Development the Future of Human Investment?”, “Developing Mental Health Resources for a Digital Generation”, as well as exploring “How Should Governments and Policymakers Address the ‘yet to be known’ Negative Impact of Technologies Used Today?”.

The forum is set to end with a 1-kilometre “Fun Run”, open to parents and young children with their siblings. The Fun Run is organised by the ECA and Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC) in partnership with Mubadala and Mubadala Health, on Wednesday, 16th March, at 16:30 from Yas Island’s Pier 71 Parking, Abu Dhabi.

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