The National Conference on Early Development, organised with the support of UNICEF and the University of Donja Gorica, brought together international and local experts, key decision makers, as well as representatives of the academic community, civil and private sectors, and the international community. The key message of the Conference was that investing in early childhood development is an imperative in the development, economic, and social terms.
“We do not have any dilemmas that by investing in the first steps of our children, we are ensuring the long-term and sustainable development of a society established on sound grounds," said the Prime Minister of Montenegro, Dusko Markovic.
Markovic emphasised that the Government will continue to actively support and implement policies towards achieving equality, inclusion, and protection of the most vulnerable categories in the forthcoming period.
“It is of utmost importance for the future of our society that we understand the need for multiple investments in early childhood development. It is precisely the benefits of our present work - and especially the economic growth and the overall stability of the Montenegrin society - that will be greatly felt by the youngest category of our population,” said Markovic.
The EU Ambassador to Montenegro, Aivo Orav, pointed out that investing in early childhood development needs to be promoted as a priority in every country, every community, and every family.
“Montenegro has been making progress in addressing the children's needs in different areas, including education, social inclusion, and protection and health. Addressing these challenges requires a cross-cutting and multisectoral response, ensuring a long-term, coherent and sustainable approach, and results,” explained Orav.
The UNICEF Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia, Philipe Cori, stressed that investing in early childhood development is worthwhile and that it is the responsibility of all actors in society.
“The benefits are reflected in better educational and health outcomes, lower crime rates, and higher earnings for individuals. On the other hand, when there is no investment in early childhood development programmes, States can lose up to double the current spending on health and education,” said Cori.
The Rector of the Donja Gorica University, Veselin Vukotic said that the first six years of life are a period when the history of each person's future is established.
“Our lives and our characters are nothing more than a revival of the traits and preferences we have acquired in the first few years of our lives. Baby dreams are life’s agenda for each of us. That is why we need to understand that these healthy childhood dreams lead to building a healthy society,” explained Vukotic.
By exploring the evidence and good practices from around the world, this Conference be able to recommend concrete, innovative, and cost-effective policies and programmatic measures which governments can take to ensure long-term economic growth and the enjoyment of rights by all children. The Conference aims to influence the ongoing processes of economic and public administration reforms and to foster regional cooperation.