New York

22 September 2015

Secretary-General's remarks at event on Investing in Early Childhood Development as the Foundation for Sustainable Development [as delivered]

I am delighted to be included today in this meeting of so many great minds. 

You represent a growing movement to give every child a fair chance in life -- beginning with early childhood.

I thank UNICEF for its leadership – and Shakira, for her longstanding commitment to universal education and early childhood development. 

As you know, Shakira has millions of fans around the world. She is quite popular, much more popular than I am.  I speak only to a group of 100 people, like this, but whenever she says things it goes to billions of people around the world. I thank her for her global, long reach.

To the United Nations, she is very popular. She is a superstar humanitarian.

Many of you here today are pushing the boundaries of our knowledge about the developing brains of our youngest children.

Because of your work, we know so much more about how nutrition, stimulation, protection and loving care are essential to the healthy development of children’s brains. 

They help them to grow and learn, to be more resilient in adversity and to be better able to embrace opportunity. 

Investing in early childhood development does not just benefit children, it benefits societies. 

When I have been meeting with Korean presidents – former and current – I have been speaking about the current situation in North Korea. You know that many children are suffering from malnutrition. What I am talking to them [about] is that if this generation [has] another generation under this current situation – malnutrition – it will be a national tragedy.  It not only affects children; it affects whole societies. It is a tragedy for humanity.

The returns can be measured in healthier, better-educated children, a stronger workforce, and a more prosperous, peaceful future.

It is one of the most important and high-return investments we can make. 

The international community is beginning to act on this new understanding. 

For the first time, the global development agenda includes a target for early childhood development. 

The Sustainable Development Goals recognize that early childhood development can help drive the transformation we hope to achieve over the next 15 years.

This is a pivotal time. 

Far too many children are still being left behind.  Our main thing is to leave nobody behind.

Too many countries have yet to make early childhood development a priority.

We need to invest more, not just in education, but in health and protection.

We need to target our investments and interventions to reach children at greatest risk of being left behind. 

Children in the poorest communities and countries. 

Children from ethnic minorities and other marginalized groups. 

Children with disabilities.

And we need to build public awareness about the importance of early childhood development. 

Families, especially, can benefit most from this knowledge -- changing the way they care for their children. 

But also policy-makers, donors, and the general public. 

We need to increase understanding of the importance of early childhood development.

And we need to generate increased investment.  

UNICEF is doing admirable work advocating for early childhood development – on the ground and through its many partnerships. And I really appreciate your partnership.

But we all have a shared responsibility to build this movement.

Today I ask all of you to make this call your own call. 

Use your influence to make early childhood development a public priority.

Let’s make a commitment to Generation 2015 -- to all the children born this year -- to give them the best start in life.  I really appreciate your strong commitment. Let’s work together to make this world better. For those of you expecting commitments, I think this is the time for us to work. Let’s begin, starting from today - this very meaningful event – let the coming two weeks be the greatest two weeks for our humanity.

Thank you very much for your commitment. Thank you.