G20 leaders must act to end the early years crisis

Children enrolled at an early years centre in Nairobi, Kenya, run by Kidogo helped Theirworld create the branding for the Act For Early Years campaign through samples of their writing (Daniel Macharia/Kidogo)

Join Theirworld’s call to the world’s most powerful countries over the need for quality childcare and pre-primary education for every child.

It’s only been a week since Theirworld launched the Act For Early Years campaign. But we’ve hit the ground running, with momentum gathering already for urgent action. 

Our extensive Act For Early Years report has been downloaded by campaigners and organisations around the world. And our global survey on parents’ struggles to get childcare was covered in depth by major TV news channels and newspapers – and even prompted a statement from the British Government. 

Now we’re starting to ramp up the pressure on world leaders to take decisive action. Theirworld has written an open letter to G20 countries, calling on them to ensure quality childcare and pre-primary education for all children. It has already been signed by hundreds of organisations and individuals who are supporting our campaign. 


Quality early childhood development, care and education is crucial for children to be ready for school and as the foundation for lifelong learning and work skills.  

Investing in early years is not a new issue. In 2018, G20 leaders realised its importance and made ground-breaking commitments – but those have gone off track. As a result, half of the world’s children – about 350 million – have no access to childcare and 175 million are not enrolled in pre-primary education. 

“Five years ago, the world’s most powerful countries signed up to promises to invest hugely in early years,” said Ben Hewitt, Senior Campaigns Advisor to Theirworld. “But then came the pandemic and cost of living crisis. 

“Those global events meant the commitments have been pushed into the background. It means that children born at the time of the G20 promises will already have missed out on quality early childhood development. 

“Now it’s time for action, before another generation of children loses out. G20 leaders meeting in India in September can make new commitments to the early years.” 

Theirworld has a track record of leading coalitions for change. Our Act For Early Years campaign aims to bring together governments, business, international agencies, parents, frontline workers, civil society, youth campaigners and grassroots groups behind a single banner and a powerful voice. 

Action by the G20 is crucial – not just because of the 2018 promises but because of its global influence. It comprises 19 of the world’s biggest economies, including China, India, United States, Germany, Brazil, United Kingdom and South Korea, along with the European Union. 

G20 member nations represent about 85% of the global GDP, more than 75% of all global trade and about two-thirds of the world’s population. 

The G20 will discuss early years again when leaders meet in September at their annual summit in New Delhi – days before the United Nations General Assembly.  

At the 2018 summit in Argentina, the G20 Initiative for Early Childhood Development (ECD) was created. It stated that “investment in early childhood development, without any discrimination, should be a high priority”.  

The initiative added: “We are concerned that, despite evidence that targeted investments in ECD save lives, promotes social equity and generates higher economic returns than those made later on in the life cycle, investments in early childhood programmes remain insufficient.” 

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People around the world live in a G20 country

The G20 countries committed to show leadership through “effective, equitable and sustainably-financed ECD interventions”.  

Theirworld’s open letter calls for leaders to make a series of new pledges that guarantee: 

  • Universal access to affordable, quality childcare, with high-quality, proven interventions available to every child spanning education, health, nutrition and social protection. 
  • Investment in a fully-trained, qualified and funded early years workforce. 
  • Delivery of the internationally-agreed target to invest 10% of education funding in pre-primary education and learning, and agree similar targets across all sectors. 

The Act For Early Years campaign kicked off last week with blanket print and broadcast coverage in the UK of our report and poll of seven countries, which included G20 members India, Brazil, US and UK.

The survey revealed that the spiralling cost of nursery and preschool fees has forced one in five parents to quit a job or drop out of education. 

Theirworld Chair Sarah Brown gave back-to-back interviews on Good Morning Britain, Sky News, ITV News and Channel 5 News, and the poll findings were covered by BBC Radio 4 and almost every UK national newspaper, including The Times, The Telegraph and The Independent. 

The report prompted the UK’s Department of Education to release a statement which said: “We recognise the cost pressures that childcare has on parents which is why we recently announced a transformative package of childcare support. This includes a new free 30 hours entitlement for eligible working parents.”