Formative childhood, also referred to as early childhood development (ECD), has received growing attention over the past decade, leading to an unprecedented expansion in scientific evidence demonstrating that the early years of life are crucial for all aspects of adult functioning. Specifically, the research shows that experiences in the first years of life influence long-term development across multiple domains. Not only has this science been recognized by academia, it has begun to inform international policy as well. Yale University, an academic leader in generating knowledge that promotes security, peace, equity, social protection, and children’s issues – both in the USA and around the world – joins this effort through the multidisciplinary contributions of the its diverse and collaborative academic, practitioner and policy teams.
Violence Reduction & Peace Building
Simultaneously, there has been substantial advancement in the area of violence reduction and promotion of peace building. Violence is one of the three greatest risk factors facing the world community, after poverty and disease, with an estimated 1.5 billion people living in conflict-affected countries. Although conflict and war have a negative impact on all people, young children feature amongst those who are most vulnerable to adverse effects. Efforts to build peace in communities and among nations primarily focus on top down approaches, with intergovernmental agencies, such as the U.N. and national governments, taking the lead in working toward peace through policy-dialogue and treaties. Unexplored are alternate approaches to peace building that begin with the individual and at the most important stage of human development: early childhood.
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Since the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, about 90 million children who would have died have, instead, survived past the age of 5 years. Improvement in nutrition has led to a 37 percent drop in stunting; nearly 1.9 billion people have gained access to decent sanitation; and primary school enrollment, even in the least developed countries, has risen from 53 percent of children to 81 percent. As important as these gains are for children around the world, far less progress has been made in mitigating the devastating impact of exposure to violence on children’s health and well-being.
Early Childhood Development: The Transformative Power for Peace
However, the importance of early childhood development has received growing attention in the past decade and notable gains in scientific evidence demonstrating the importance of the early years of life has risen to the forefront of child rights and child protection initiatives. With this expansion in knowledge has come a multi-disciplinary effort to understand and actively address the consequences of violence for children and their families. Efforts to build peace within communities and among nations are now informed by a growing body of literature that demonstrates the transformative power of the well-being of children and families as an agent of change for peace. The focus is now shifting beyond simply saving children’s lives to facilitating their development so they can reach their full potential.
Chowdhury, A. (Nov 2014). The culture of peace. In J. Leckman, C. Panter-Brick, R. Salah (Eds.), Pathways to peace: The transformative power of children and families (pp. xiii-xx). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.