Early Childhood Peace Consortium Inaugural Event

Early Childhood Peace Consortium ignites a new 'torch of peace' for world's children

Early Childhood Peace Consortium Inauguration

Yale in partnership with multidisciplinary global team joins forces to 'create a legacy of sustained peace drawing on the transformative power of early childhood development' at the UNICEF inaugural Early Childhood Peace Consortium. 

Contributors: N. Shemrah Fallon, Rima Salah, L. Angelica Ponguta and Anna Zonderman.

NEW YORK, NY, September 23, 2013 - Can there be peace on Earth, despite an endless stream of headline news veering to the contrary? According to pioneering researchers at Yale, UNICEF and their global partners, the answer is an affirmative one and emerging scientific evidence is providing the missing vital piece to this complex puzzle of the human condition. But, then, who will be the most capable world leaders to carry forth this new 'torch of peace'? We need to look no further than to our young children. Compelling data by leading experts, ranging from the halls of epigenetics and neurobiological sciences to the culturally diverse neighborhoods of Sesame Street, presented at the Early Childhood Peace Consortium (ECPC) inauguration, held on September 20 at UNICEF House in New York City, shows that we as parents and caretakers must first provide our children with what they truly need to get the job done. 

In the poignant words of the event chair, UNICEFs new Senior Advisor of the Early Childhood Development Division, Dr. Pia Rebello Britto, who joined UNICEF in May 2013 from Yale University, Child Study Center ”To achieve real peace, we must teach our children peace.” Reverberations by representatives from the United Nations at the highest level included: H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al Nasser, the UN High Representative of the Alliance of Civilizations and keynote speaker; Dr. Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director (Programs); Dr. Amina J. Mohammed, the UN Secretary General's Special Advisor on post 2015 Development Planning; and high officials from United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Dr. Nicolas Alipui and Ms. Marta Ruedas. In their presentations, all committed to work for building Peace in the World, emphasizing the role of children and their families as agents of change…and also, beacons of hope. 

  • Historically marked, was the inception of a UN Resolution on Early Childhood and Peacebuilding to be endorsed by Member States and to promote investment in early childhood development (ECD) programs at the National level.
  • Note: Remarks by H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser the United Nations High Representative for Alliance of Civilizations at the launch of the Early Childhood Peace Consortium can be viewed here.

The birth of the Consortium (loose affiliation of global partners from multiple sectors, institutions and organizations engaged in peace building in early childhood development) brought together a large multidisciplinary global team of 140 partners from multiple sectors (including civil society, the social and mass media, government officials, multi and bilateral agencies, as well as practitioners and academia), agencies and countries, who as a result of the event, are actively uniting to “create a legacy of sustained peace drawing on the transformative power of early child development” by casting the light of the ECPC torch on the integral need to invest in young children to promote peace-making in homes and communities, and as a strategy for peace building among nations. 

Hallmark session speeches by Yale Child Study Center faculty and ECPC co-founders: James F. Leckman, MD, Rima Salah, PhD, and Kyle D. Pruett, MD, including other leading experts on the exchange between the natural sciences and other disciplines on the biological basis of early life experiences as a foundation for healthy later-in-life outcomes for current and future generations of children everywhere, spun the inaugural event into high gear. 

Michael Meaney, C.M., PhD, C.Q., FRSE, Professor of Psychiatry at McGill University and pioneer in biohavioral epigenetics research, presented compelling evidence that the experience of the child is "biologically embedded" and serves to influence health and capacity over the lifespan" and that "this effect is apparent even at the level of the DNA of the individual; the activity of genes implicated in brain development and function is directly regulated by the social environment." In other words, the degree of affection to which a parent shows his/her young child plays a vital role in the child's healthy physical and behavioral development. This human developmental keystone was reaffirmed by C. Sue Carter, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry, a pioneer in the study of the role of the neruopeptide, oxytocin, in parent care and bonding who underlined, "The biological and evolutionary prototype for peace and safety is the parent-child interaction."

Dr. Christian Salazar Volkmann, Deputy Director, Program Division at UNICEF, underscored the key points made during the inaugural event - “The Early Childhood Peace Consortium can and should be an important advocate to place ECD higher on the global peace and development agenda. This is really urgent." He reiterated the need to move forward with "concerted advocacy for ECD to scale-up ECD programs worldwide, especially in countries heavily affected by violence and conflict.” He concluded, “Partnerships need steadfast support. Today was great. There is high energy and enthusiasm. But the peace building agenda is a long road. It needs endurance.” 

What did ECPC presenters and members have to say about the inauguration?

  • “I have been to many similar events, which were mostly a conversation among younger adults, many of whom were idealistic. This even was real, tangible, and proposed valuable mechanisms for change.” 
    Michael Evans, Founder – Full Court Peace 
  • “What was most interesting was there were more actors represented, more agencies, themes. It was not the talking about the ‘usual’. There was a wider circle, more advocates… I feel encouraged.”
    Liana Ghent, ISSA – REYN – Romani Early Years Network

The ECPC launch, a dream come true for founding partners from Yale University, UNICEF, United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, Mother Child Education Foundation (AÇEV), Sesame Workshop, Early Years, Fetzer Institute, and Foundation Child who invite the world family to join them in raising this new torch of peace. The words of Melvin Ming, CEO of Sesame Workshop, summarize the day long ECPC event best. “Make the image of peace as compelling as the image of war. Teach peace as a value, a tool, a habit, a virtue, and a rule. Can we teach children that the law of the planet Earth is peace?

Image: Presenters group at the ECPC inauguration, 20 Sept. 2013, UNICEF NY

L-R Standing: Kyle D. Pruett, MD; Mohammed Mohammed (Fetzer), Marya Reed (Doha Qatar), Charlotte Frances Cole, PhD (Sesame Workshop), Melvin Ming, CEO (Sesame Workshop), Brenda Haiplik (UNICEF), James F. Leckman (Yale), Louise Zimanyi (CG), Siobhan Fitzpatrick (Early Years/UNA), Michael Meaney(McGill) 

L-R Seated: Pia Rebello Britto (UNICEF), C. Sue Carter, PhD (Univ N. Carolina), Rima Salah (Yale), Diana Sunar, PhD (BİLGİ Univ), Çiğdem Kağıtçıbaşı, PhD (Koc Univ), Ms. Ayla Göksel (AÇEV)

Photo credit: N. Shemrah Fallon & Eva Lotta Schiermeyer

A Consortium for Change

Welcome Address
Dr. Geeta Rao Gupta, Dep Exec Dir Programs UNICEF

“What brings us together is our belief – backed by emerging evidence – that violence of any kind, early in life – either experienced or observed – can have long-lasting and detrimental impacts on the health, life skills, competencies, attitudes and beliefs of young children and adults, alike." 

Dr. Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director Programs, UNICEF, ECPC Launch Event 20 Sept 2013

It Takes Teamwork

United Nations
Dr. Amina J. Mohammed, UN Sec-Gen Spec Advisor

"How can we building vibrant communities where children are front and center (especially in post-conflict settings)? The success so far as been achieved through teamwork; we must work together." 

Dr. Amina J. Mohammed, U.N. Secretary-General's Special Advisor of Post-2015 Development Planning, ECPC Launch Event 20 Sept 2013, UNICEF NY

A Network of Alliances

Violence Prev/Peace Promotion Panelist
Dr. Siobhan Fitzpatrick

Network on Peace Building/UNA: Marked the development of successful strategies to implement programs in situations of emergency, high vulnerability, fragility and conflict, and demonstrated the importance of network alliances and partnerships in the process of peace building through ECD. 

Dr. Siobhan Fitzpatrick, CEO Early Years, Northern Ireland, ECPC Launch Event 20 Sept 2013

PPT Presentation: "The Power of Early Childhood Developments in Conflict and Post Conflict Societies"

Need for Justice & Security

UN Panelist
Ms. Marta Ruedas

"Around the world violence is hold back states and societies from achieving their potential. To say we are working on the Millenium Development Goals we must work to mitigate violence against women and children. Justice and security services need to be established and be able to support communities."

Ms. Marta Ruedas, Deputy Assistant Administrator and Deputy Director Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR), United Nations; ECPC Launch Event 20 Sept 2013