In Moscow, on 27-29 September, 2010, took place the first ever World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE). It was organized by UNESCO and the Russian Federation in accordance with the Resolution, adopted at the 35th session of UNESCO’s General Conference in October 2009.
The Conference assembled ministers of education from 68 countries, representatives from international and non-governmental organizations, academics and education experts from all regions of the world with the aim to take stock of progress, identify challenges and establish more effective benchmarks in this important area.
The Director-General of UNESCO Ms Irina Bokova opened the Conference in the presence of the Mayor of Moscow Mr. Yury Luzhkov, the Minister of Education and Science of the Russian Federation Mr. Andrei Fursenko, the Vice-President of the Seychelles Mr. Danny Faure, the First Lady of Azerbaijan and the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, and the Permanent Delegate of the Russian Federation to UNESCO and the Chairperson of UNESCO’s Executive Board Mrs. Eleonora Mitrofanova.
The Prime-Minister of the Russian Federation Mr. Vladimir Putin send welcome greetings to the participants and guests of the Conference. In the message he stated, in particular, that “The Russian Government is paying special attention to legislative guarantees of children’s rights, including those of the youngest ones. An entire network of core preschool institutions has been established and continuously developed, and state demographic programmes for supporting mothers and children have been implemented”.
Early childhood is defined as a period from birth to eight years old. It is time of remarkable brain development, but also an extremely vulnerable time for young children, especially in the developing world, where a child has a four in ten chance of living in extreme poverty and 10.5 million children under age of 5 die from preventable diseases every year.
ECCE programmes are a key strategy in achieving the Education for All, which is the cornerstone on UNESCO’s work in education, and Millennium Development Goals. Despite that ECCE is the first and fundamental step in building wealth of nations, it is a fact that sometimes this is a forgotten link in education chain.
That’s why in her opening address the Director-General of UNESCO Ms Irina Bokova underlined that “Every country that is committed to inclusion, growth and social justice should have strong national early childhood care and education policies in place. They are the bedrock of a prosperous future.”. She remanded that «Early childhood care and education programmes yield greater investment returns than any other level of education» and that education «is the best insurance against poverty».
The Minister of Education and Science of the Russian Federation Mr. Andrei Fursenko, who was unanimously elected as a president of the Conference, underlined that issues of the pre-school education are included in all the programmes of the strategic development of Russia and that this sphere is acknowledged as a most effective investment. He also emphasized the opportunity provided by the Conference for countries to exchange experiences, look at what works and how.
The address of the First Lady of Azerbaijan and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva was rather emotional. She stressed that today in the world we can find 143 million of orphans and noted that we live together with the handicapped kids who need special treatment. She said that it’s necessary to combine efforts of international organizations, national governments, financial structures and people of good will who are anxious about fortune of each infant.
The Vice-President of the Seychelles Mr. Danny Faure urged governments to act «swiftly and concertedly». They must give priority to early childhood programmes and «demonstrate the political will to make this happen», he said.
The Mayor of Moscow Mr. Yury Luzhkov informed that a half of a city’s budget earmarked to education is going to pre-school institutions.
Mrs. Eleonora Mitrofanova, the Chaiperson of the UNESCO Executive Board, expressed a hope that the international forum will enable participants to assess and scrutinize persistent shortfalls and challenges in different parts of world. She also informed about alarming facts, i.e. one in three children aged 0-5 are malnourished in the world; a child born in the developing world has a 40 % chance of living in extreme poverty; around 10.5 million children under the age of five die each year from diseases which are mostly preventable. “Early childhood represents a window of great opportunities, and the consequences of missing these opportunities are far-reaching, and of considerable cost to families and governments”, underlined Mrs. Mitrofanova.
During the Moscow UNESCO Conference a lot of discussions were held in different panels and seminars. They were focused on: development policies, costs and financing, and legal and institutional frameworks; regional experiences; quality and responsiveness; exclusion and marginalization; and monitoring and evaluation. A number of country cases have been also presented to highlight effective programmes in different parts in the world.
The first global meeting around the cause of children under eight adopted the Moscow Framework of Action, which outlines a number of challenges that must be tackled to achieve ECCE goals.
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On 27 September the Director-General of UNESCO Ms Irina Bokova during her stay in Moscow was received by the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Andrei Denisov.
The parties discussed a broad spectrum of issued concerning cooperation between Russia and UNESCO. A special attention was payed to such important field as education and intercultural dialogue. Russia’s active interaction with this leading international humanitarian organization in all its activities was noted and ways of further strengthening ties were outlined.
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On September 29 the UNESCO Director-General Ms Irina Bokova delivered a lecture before students of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University), MFA of Russia, on the theme of “Building a Sustainable Future: UNESCO’s Humanistic View of Globalization.”
The lecture was followed by the ceremony of bestowing on Ms Irina Bokova the title of Doctor Honoris Causa of MGIMO University, from which she graduated in 1976.
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On the same day the UNESCO Director-General Ms Irina Bokova signed a cooperation agreement between UNESCO and the Russian agency RIA Novosti, represented by its Chief Executive Officer Ms Sveltana Mironyuk.
Under the Agreement, RIA Novosti will support the diffusion of information about UNESCO’s activities and programmes. The Agreement also foresees joint organization of events on UNESCO related issues and facilitation of access to both parties information materials.
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The UNESCO Director-General Ms Irina Bokova and Yaroslavl Region Governor Mr. Sergey Vakhrukov signed a Memorandum of Cooperation between UNESCO and the Government of the Yaroslavl Region, Russian Federation.
The signing ceremony of the Memorandum was attended by the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Mr. Andrei Denisov.
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The UNESCO Director-General Ms Irina Bokova also attended the second All-Russia Congress of UNESCO Chairs, convened to examine ways to enhance interaction between the Organization and centers of advanced scientific expertise in Russian universities
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The UNESCO Director-General Ms Irina Bokova signed two agreements on the establishment of the UNESCO Chairs. One - with the Lomonosov Moscow State University on Emerging Global Social and Ethical Challenges. Other - with the All Russian State Tax Academy of the Ministry of Finance in Innovative and Information Technologies in Higher Professional Education.
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During the meeting between the UNESCO Director-General Ms Irina Bokova and Mr. Andrei Fursenko, Russian Minister of Education and Science, the educational issues were discussed in detail.
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The visit program also included the meeting of the UNESCO Director-General Ms Irina Bokova with Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill to discuss practical options of work on interfaith dialogue in the framework of UNESCO.