WED Forum - Day 1 - image 2-1647345152393
His Highness Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, participated in the first annual WED Forum at Yas Island, Abu Dhabii on Tuesday. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The first annual WED (World Early Childhood Development) Forum opened at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi today, coinciding with Emirati Children’s Day.

Established by Abu Dhabi’s Early Childhood Authority (ECA), WED Movement gathered leading experts and innovators to develop the best possible solutions that would positively impact the lives of young children, as well as evolve the early childhood sector in Abu Dhabi and beyond.

Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, participated in the forum. The inauguration was attended by Hussein Bin Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Minister of Education; Jameela Bint Salem Mesbeh Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education and Chief of Dubai Schools Inspections Bureau at Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA); Dr. Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, Chairman of the Department of Community Development and Member of the Board of Trustees; Engineer Awaidha Murshed Ali Al Marar, Chairman, Abu Dhabi Department of Energy; Falah Mohammed Al Ahbabi, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Waste Management Centre - “Tadweer”; Sara Awad Issa Musallam, Chairperson of the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge; Ali Rashid Qannas Al Kitbi, Chairman of the Department of Government Support; and Saif Mohammed Al Hajri, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Power Corporation; in addition to a number of general managers of governmental and private institutions, as well as editors-in-chief of local newspapers and media.

Supportive environment

Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan said: “I value all the strives made to develop solutions that positively affect the lives of our children and work to provide a friendly, supportive environment for their development as well as protect them from the dangers surrounding them. I congratulate you on this forum and hope it will be beneficial in bringing innovative practices in Early Childhood Development. I also thank the Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority, chaired by Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, for their efforts in building and developing knowledge platforms that enhance the UAE’s efforts in building the future generation, including the WED movement aimed at addressing current and future challenges that affect our children.”

He said, “Although international reports in 2020 indicate an increase in children sexual exploitation cases globally via the internet by 106 per cent during the pandemic, compared to 2019, thanks to the guidance of the visionary leadership and the relentless efforts of national and international partnerships, the UAE succeeded in achieving a decrease of 34 per cent in the number of cases. I therefore would like to call on the international community to play a greater role in the interest of our future, our children today and tomorrow, and I call on social media companies to show more cooperation and effort to protect children in the digital world.”

Sarah Musallam opened the forum’s activities with a speech that shed light on the power of creativity and essential skills that our children will rely on in their future development journey.

Pressing challenges

Sheikh Theyab said: “Marking this year’s Emirati Children’s Day, we are thrilled to host our first WED Forum where we, as a global movement for Early Childhood Development, are committed to tackling pressing challenges faced globally and locally in Abu Dhabi through locally championed initiatives that have a positive impact on children and parents. The Early Childhood Development sector is a major priority for the Abu Dhabi Government, in which we whole-heartedly believe in the impact of a child’s early years on their lives and future. Through this inaugural event, we explore and discuss equipping children, the future of our world, with the knowledge and skills needed to overcome challenges, cope with change and contribute to building their communities. Abu Dhabi welcomes you to our first-ever WED Forum.”

On its first day, the event mobilised over 250 global leaders, innovators, policymakers, and ECD experts, academics, and practitioners in a joint effort to advance the state of ECD in Abu Dhabi and beyond and to achieve the strategic Abu Dhabi 2035 vision for ECD that ultimately ensures that every young child is provided the best possible opportunity to be healthy, confident, curious, and able to learn and develop strong values in a safe and family friendly environment in Abu Dhabi.

Delegates were invited to immerse themselves in the forum’s interactive space, designed to recreate a child’s big life events of growth and development, seen through the eyes of four children with different social backgrounds and profiles.

Focusing on key challenges identified in WED Movement’s main themes – Tech Humanity for Children, 21st Century Lifestyle, Emotional Wellbeing and Social Interactions – members of the Breakthrough Working Groups alongside regional and international policy influencers honed the prevailing ECD challenges faced in the out-turn of the pandemic.

WED Talks

Dr Timothy Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics, said: “Children of Determination are often among our most vulnerable and yet important members of society. The chance for all of us to flourish depends on the opportunities they have to flourish too. they deserve a chance to reach their potential; live a healthy, safe and happy life, thrive, learn and have the opportunity to be contribute to their communities. The pandemic has unquestionably shown that we need to do more and better when it comes to providing support to Children of Determination and their families. In today’s panel discussion, we discussed how we are challenged to change our perceptions of “disability” and instead see the gifts of each child and bring all of our community stakeholders, such as government, educational institutions, private sector, municipal bodies, urban planning entities, healthcare institutions, parents and caregivers, to play a significant role in enabling Children of Determination to lead meaningful lives and thus to enable all of us to live in a world of welcome for all.”

The session yielded several ideas to tackle the gaps. Among those discussed was utilising technology to support learning outcomes for Children of Determination. Other key WED talks included The ethical questions around monitoring children’s development through technology, and Approaches to gaming addiction: Guiding responsible gaming habits for children and parents, among many others.

Taking part in the WED panel sessions, were the WED Movement’s partners: Mubadala, the Visionary Partner, Daman and ADNOC as Official Partners, Miral as WED Destination Partner, Manchester City Football Schools UAE, Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, UNICEF and BvLF as Supporters, as well as members of Abu Dhabi Government Media Office, Crown Prince Court, Abu Dhabi Executive Office, Department of Community Development, Statistics Centre of Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Digital Authority, Department of Health, Abu Dhabi, Department of Education and Knowledge, Supreme Council of Motherhood and Childhood, Abu Dhabi Judicial Department and Ministry of Foreign Affairs & International Cooperation.