Damascus Declaration on Early Childhood
The Regional Arab Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education, held in Damascus from September 20 to 22 under the auspices of the Syrian First lady Mrs. Asma al-Assad, was concluded and issued the Damascus Declaration for Early Childhood Care and Education.
The conference, organized by the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in the Arab States-Beirut brought together for the first time over 150 experts in early childhood education from all over the world.
Issued at the conclusion of the Conference's activity, the Deceleration is based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the document from the Convention's committee on the importance of early childhood, the recommendations of the World Conference on Education for All Jomtien, 1990, the goals of the World Conference on Education for All Dakar 2000, the goals of the 2nd Arab Action Plan on Childhood for 2004-2015, and the plan for developing education in the Arab world adopted by the Damascus Arab Summit in March 2008.
The Declaration affirms that there are advanced steps, projects and programs being carried out by most Arab countries in protecting and caring for early childhood due to the importance of this stage in building children mentally, culturally, physically and socially, and that caring for early childhood guarantees the nation's future and security.
It underlined the basic and most important challenges facing developing early childhood in the Arab region, most significant of which is that the concept of early childhood and related programs are still limited to the pre-school (kindergarten) stage and thus lack comprehensiveness in building the various aspects of children's character.
Other problems include the low rate of children enrolled in kindergartens in the Arab world compared to other areas, the continuing hindrance of providing early childhood services due to circumstances affecting some Arab countries, lack of coordination among Arab countries in developing early childhood strategies and policies, lack of guidance programs aimed at parents, insufficiency of data and statistics related to early childhood, insufficiency of qualified educational staff for managing programs, insufficiency of services provided by the official sector, in addition to the continuing Israeli occupation of Arab lands in Palestine and the occupied Syrian Golan and the Israeli destructive practices that affect programs and services aimed at early childhood.
Based on this, the Declaration announced adopting a comprehensive concept of early childhood care and education that covers the human growth period from birth up to the early years of elementary school which connects the physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of children through the required care and education to support their growth.
The Declaration went on to stress the importance of cooperation among ministries in each country and between Arab countries and relevant Arab, Islamic and international organizations, including UN organization, in order to promote the early childhood agenda in each country and on the national level.
It voiced commitment to doubling and improving efforts to expand the levels of early childhood care and education in Arab countries, expressing desire to reach high levels by 2015 that make a marked change in the building of human resources.
The Declaration called on relevant international organizations to stand firmly and more actively against the illegal practices of the Israeli occupation against children in the occupied Arab lands which deny them their basic children rights of education, health and good life, demanding the implementation of UN relevant decisions.
It also welcomed the UNESCO Regional Bureau's initiative for forming an Arab workgroup on early childhood in cooperation with the Arab League and its organization in order to allow Arab countries to develop early childhood care and education plans and programs.
The Declaration called for adopting a permanent item on childhood issues in the agenda of the Arab Summit, saying that the state of childhood in the Arab world deserves to have a special Arab Summit dedicated to it.
To guarantee the implementation of the aforementioned points, the Declaration concluded by calling for establishing a committee to specify the mechanism and requirements of future action according to an integrated plan for early childhood care and education in Arab countries in cooperation with the UNESCO, Arab, regional and international organizations.
At the final session, participants in the conference called for developing strategies and polices of education and early childhood care in the Arab world.
They recommended setting up mechanisms of coordination among different sectors including health, education and social protection to guarantee integration in budgets and programs.