Investing in young children globally is a primary means of achieving sustainable human, social, and economic development, all of which are vital to ensuring international peace and security. Strategic investments in children have been recognized by the world’s leaders in their recent adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to further peace, end global poverty, and ensure that all human beings can fulfill their potential in dignity. For the first time, early childhood development is acknowledged as a critical part of the global development agenda. Although child development is explicitly referenced under the new education goal, it is naturally linked to other goals—reducing poverty, improving health and nutrition, promoting equality for girls and women, and reducing violence. Indeed, coordinated, evidence-based investments must be made across sectors to ensure that more and more children not only survive but also thrive.
This paper is a call to action, informed by science from multiple disciplines. We hope it will help to close the gap between what is known and what is done to support the development of children globally and, in turn, sustainable progress for communities and nations.