A co-program director of the Cazenovia College Inclusive Early Childhood and Elementary Education programs presented to a worldwide audience this week in speaking at a United Nations conference in New York.

Associate Professor Dr. Jessica Essary was selected to present on behalf of the World Organization for Early Childhood Education (OMEP) at the United Nations’ 60th session of the Conference for Social Development. The conference’s virtual presentations were streamed worldwide via the UN’s broadcast channel.

Dr. Essary is a member of the United States delegation for The World Organization for Early Childhood Education. The OMEP is a non-governmental organization that works to defend human rights of all children from birth through age eight and that advocates for early childhood education and care. It was founded in 1948 and operates in more than 60 countries.

In presenting for OMEP and the UN Committee on Migration Subcommittee on Children in Migration, Dr. Essary’s statement addressed how the cities around the world can be positioned as platforms to drive fulfillment of children’s nurturing care and educational needs, especially since it is projected that 70 percent of the world’s population will reside in cities by 2050. She said that while cities and their most at-risk residents (particularly migrants, women, and their youngest children) were hard hit by COVID-19 conditions, using cities as the places of delivering systems providing nurturing care and education in early childhood can help break cycles of global intergenerational poverty and inequality. Children of poverty who experience multiple overlapping deprivations, such as a lack of or loss of a home, education, and nurturing care; or the loss of one or both parents, extended family members, friends, and a sense of normalcy are at a severe disadvantage. These elements can hinder brain development in children and can have long-term consequences into adulthood for the individuals as well as for society as a whole, Dr. Essary expressed.

Her statement continued, “During the pandemic it has been more vital than ever for children to have a good start. It is not a task of charity but a moral duty, an act of social justice in the protection of human rights, yet children often are not perceived as human rights-holders but as invisible. Early childhood care and education is the most cost-effective investment a country can make to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty and inequality, and to build a more peaceful and cohesive society. Cities can play a critical role in that effort.”

Dr. Essary is one of 10 UN representatives who were selected via the World Organization for Early Childhood Education. OMEP has special consultative status at the UN by virtue of its history of recognition as a leading non-governmental organization in the Economic and Social Council organ of the UN system. Dr. Essary continues her role as a United Nations Representative for OMEP by serving on the UN NGO Committee on Migration, the UN NGO Major Group, and participating in various high-level UN meetings to influence government policies pertaining to early childhood care and education. As an academic, advocate, and activist for early childhood care and education, her ongoing appointment as a UN Representative brings her opportunity to influence policy development internationally in the decades to come.