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Our achievements in 2023

As the third year of the First Years, First Priority campaign comes to an end, we are taking stock of everything that we have achieved and of the challenges still ahead. In October, all the campaign partners gathered in Brussels to exchange insights, celebrate successes, and discuss obstacles and ideas for the next phase of our work together. We also welcomed a new national coalition to the campaign, from Italy, represented by the Centro per la Salute del Bambino (Centre for Child Health and Development).
 
As we look back on this past year, we would like to share with you some important milestones.
 
In 2023, we continued to focus on young children and caregivers who face particular and intersecting exclusion, disadvantage, and discrimination – children from Roma communities, migrant, refugee and undocumented children, and children with disabilities. With contributions from civil society partners such as the European Associations of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD) and the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), we produced 3 new thematic papers, with recommendations for EU and national policymakers and examples of good practice from different countries.
 
During Roma Week 2023, we co-organised an eventUnlocking the Potential of Young Roma Children, hosted by Milan Brglez MEP. At the event we presented the campaign and highlighted the importance of early childhood development for young Roma children. The event issued a call to action.
 
We also participated in the 2023 European Education Summit (photo above), the annual flagship event of the European Education Area which brings together policymakers from EU institutions, governments, academia and civil society. We spoke on a panel dedicated to Quality Early Childhood Education and Care in Practice, and welcomed the Commission’s spotlight on children’s early years.

Under the Spanish EU Presidency, we have continued to highlight the importance of children’s early years in the implementation of the European Child Guarantee. We participated in a high-level meeting of Child Guarantee National Coordinators, hosted by the Spanish government. The meeting agreed a ‘Valencia Declaration’ to fight child poverty and early childhood inequalities, and we expect all EU Member States to endorse the declaration by the end of this year.

On 22 November 2023, the European Parliament adopted an important Resolution, ‘Children first – strengthening the Child Guarantee, two years on from its adoption’. The Resolution was led by Dragos Pîslaru MEP, a key supporter of the First Years, First Priority campaign. We submitted amendments to the draft text, and the final Resolution includes several references to the importance of investing in early childhood. The Resolution also calls for increased EU funding for the Child Guarantee and the establishment of a European authority for children.

Other recent European Parliament reports and resolutions also include attention to children’s early years, reflecting a growing understanding of, and support for, a focus on early childhood in tackling poverty and exclusion. For example, the Parliament Resolution on Reducing inequalities and promoting social inclusion in times of crisis for children and their families underscores the importance of social investment in children’s early years, and of universal access to public, affordable and quality maternal, newborn and paediatric healthcare. The role of the European Parliament is key in ensuring that early childhood is a priority in the EU’s current and future agenda.
 
As we look ahead to 2024, the main focus for the First Years, First Priority campaign will be on the European Parliament Elections in June. We have already shared our key messages with the political groups, and are working with other children’s organisations to ensure that the EU’s focus on child poverty, on children’s rights and on early childhood are maintained and increased in the new Parliament and the new European Commission that will follow.
 
With distressing events dominating the news, most recently in the Middle East, we fervently hope that global leaders and the international community act swiftly to cease the violence and end the children’s rights violations that result from war.