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Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority’s WED Movement Engages Global Experts To Drive Innovation, Excellence

Abu Dhabi’s World Early Childhood Development Movement (WED Movement) has launched a new initiative with global experts to develop innovative and actionable solutions advancing Abu Dhabi’s vision to be a leader in early childhood development.

The WED Movement was established earlier this year under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Court and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA). The movement is harnessing the expertise of a multidisciplinary group of 21 early child development experts representing a mix of academics, healthcare practitioners, policy influencers, children’s media and entertainment specialists, global business leaders and technical consultants. The experts come from several world-renowned institutions such as the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, World Bank, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and Harvard University, as well as several global companies in technology and entertainment.

Participants are working in one of three Breakthrough Working Groups (BWGs), each focused on a unique and important aspect of how children’s mental, physical and cognitive abilities develop in the earliest years of life, from pregnancy to the age of 8 years. The BWGs are focused on Emotional Wellbeing and Social Interaction, Tech Humanity for Children, and 21st Century Lifestyle.

To date, the BWGs have held nearly 100 strategic planning sessions and met with more than 65 parents, children, teachers and ECD experts in the UAE towards the creation of a series of innovative solutions that promote the holistic healthy development of Abu Dhabi’s children.

Team members are coordinating directly with a range of government and social service entities, including Abu Dhabi Department of Community Development, Abu Dhabi Department of Health, Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge and Zayed Higher Organisation for People of Determination. They also have commissioned independent research on such issues as child screen time, technology use in the home, playtime and social interaction.

The BWGs work under the guidance of Co-Chairs Cecilia Vaca-Jones, Executive Director of the Bernard van Leer Foundation, and Omar Saif Ghobash, Assistant Minister for Cultural Affairs at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC).

Vaca-Jones said, "This Breakthrough Working Group approach enables us to tap into a global collection of world-class early childhood development experts with a single mission and focus: helping Abu Dhabi create the best possible environment to give our children the opportunity in life everyone deserves. And these new programmes, policies and initiatives that we pioneer here at home can become models for early childhood development that are adopted in nations around the world."

The BWGs are currently researching and assessing issues as well as exploring potential solutions related to the following themes: Emotional Wellbeing and Social Interaction: Creating an ecosystem that can help reduce emotional strain on children, parents and caregivers while promoting continuous interactions with children that help them establish important social interaction skills at an early age.

Tech Humanity for Children: Looking to ensure that children are ready for the rapidly growing level of technology in their lives and are well aware of and protected from risks to best reap the many benefits these new technologies offer.

21st Century Lifestyle: Fostering an Abu Dhabi-wide environment that promotes a better lifestyle at home, in school and across the community and facilitates positive physical and mental health of children.

Ghobash said, "Through this team of experts and the BWG approach, we will look to generate recommended programmes, policies and initiatives that can have a positive impact across the early childhood development ecosystem on behalf of our children, including parents and caregivers, academia, government policymakers, social support groups and the private sector."

Dr. Nikki Martyn, Programme Head of Early Childhood Studies at the University of Guelph-Humber and a member of one of the BWGs said, "Being a part of WED Movement is a truly unique opportunity to take the learnings and experiences of early childhood development experts from around the world and develop initiatives and recommendations that can quickly be put in place to directly benefit the children of Abu Dhabi."

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