As a father of four children, I feel very strongly about promoting the welfare of youth and children. This topic is especially relevant to us at the U.S. Embassy because of Cambodia’s large youth population. Last week, I had the pleasure to host a roundtable discussion with development partners on U.S.-Cambodia cooperation to protect children in adversity. Of particular focus was the U.S. government’s Action Plan on Children in Adversity (APCA) which provides guiding principles for this cooperation. I am very pleased that Cambodia has been selected as a focus country for implementing the APCA.
The APCA has three objectives: to build strong beginnings for children, to put family care before institutional care, and to protect children from abuse and exploitation. Support for these goals was expressed by the roundtable participants, including members of the Global Alliance for Children – a network of governments, civil society organizations, and private sector representatives who share many of the same goals as the APCA.
The roundtable discussion was joined by Dr. Neil Boothby and Dr. Richard Rinehart of USAID, who came to Cambodia last week to meet with Cambodian officials, development partners, and private sector representatives. They worked to explain the APCA, gather support, and identify next steps for implementation of the core objectives. I was interested to learn that the APCA is grounded in evidence that shows that supportive caregiving in early childhood is directly linked to children’s cognitive, emotional, and motor development. Cycles of poverty and inequality are being broken by countries making investments in early childhood health and development protections, while failure to do so is undermining social and economic progress in other countries.
Millions of children all over the world still live in dangerous conditions and face significant risks. Providing a safe environment for children is a priority that requires our immediate attention and best efforts. I was encouraged by the ideas, interest, and dedication of the roundtable participants and I hope that the new partnerships formed in support of the APCA will help achieve the vision of a world we all share, in which all children grow up in a safe family environment free from deprivation, exploitation, and danger.