I of course accept the importance—particularly in this area—of the discipline of transparency and of creating an expectation of it both within Governments and between them in making progress on the delivery of donor aid. That is one of the successes achieved by the millennium development goals. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield has shown, progress has clearly been achieved.
This is an important moment to take stock, to recognise the huge challenges that remain and to consider the nature of the advocacy that this Parliament will make in the final stages of the UN process, which will conclude in September.
I will focus, as I said, on one important area that I have pursued with other Members through the auspices of the all-party parliamentary group for conception to age two, which is ensuring that the new sustainable development goals have a focus on early childhood. There is a universal language of childhood. Parents around the world have shared ambitions for their children, but the realisation of those ambitions is impeded by a range of circumstances.
My hon. Friend Mr Lewis, the former shadow Secretary of State for International Development, asked me to undertake a campaign to secure a focus on early childhood in the next round of sustainable development goals, working through the auspices of the all-party group. Using the model of Sure Start for the world, we sought support from countries around the world to make this issue one of the benchmarks against which investments by donor countries in developing countries should be measured.
Why is this issue so important? Nearly 50% of African children will be stunted by the time they are five. That is appalling on humanitarian grounds and morally indefensible. Given that six of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa, the prospect of continued economic growth is less likely. There must be global investment in developing countries to ensure that their economic potential is realised. Among other interventions, we must ensure that there is maximum benefit from interventions in early childhood.
I welcome the support of 12,000 people around the world on this issue. I welcome the support of 170 countries, and the support and leadership of UNICEF. I welcome the opportunity we had to present the global petition to Amina Mohammed, Ban Ki-moon’s representative, and to address a representative group of member states at the UN.
Draft target 4.2 states:
“By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education”.
I am confident that that will begin to address the intractable inequality faced by children in the poorest countries of the world.
I sat with mothers in Malawi just over a year ago and listened to them talking about the importance of a pre-school playgroup in a rural hut and the benefits it brought to their children. Any one of us could have heard the same conversation in our constituency.
Let this House acknowledge that progress, and recognise that sustainable development goals that underline the importance of early intervention will reshape the economies of some of the poorest countries.