Abu Dhabi Government Leaders and Academic Researchers Explore Evidence-Based Policymaking in Early Childhood Development

Abu Dhabi – 5 November 2023:


The Abu Dhabi Early Childhood Authority (ECA) organized an Early Childhood Development Research Retreat on Tuesday, 31 October 2023, followed by a Government Roundtable Discussion on Wednesday, 1 November.

The events featured senior Abu Dhabi government officials including His Excellency Dr. Mugheer Al Khaili, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Community Development (DCD), Her Excellency Dr. Noura Al Ghaithi, Undersecretary of the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DOH),and Her Excellency Sana Suhail, Director General of the ECA, along with senior academics, researchers, and Early Childhood Development experts and practitioners. The Government Roundtable Discussion was also attended by Her Excellency Dr. Bushra Al Mulla, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Family Care Authority (ADFCA), Her Excellency Salama Al Ameemi, Director General of the Social Contribution Authority “Ma’an,” and His Excellency Eng. Thamer AlQasimi, Executive Director of Special Projects and Partnerships at the ECA.

The participants discussed how to foster and strengthen partnerships across academic disciplines and sectors related to Early Childhood Development (ECD), in addition to building bridges between academia, government leadership, and the broader community to contribute to a robust, innovative, and impactful ECD research ecosystem in Abu Dhabi. The Research Retreat and Government Roundtable Discussion mark the peak of the ECA’s “Creating a Research Culture” awareness campaign, which began in late September and continues through the first week of November. The campaign’s aim is to build a thriving academic research ecosystem in Abu Dhabi’s early childhood sector.

The Government Roundtable Discussion began on Wednesday, 1 November, with a keynote speech by His Excellency Dr. Mugheer Al Khaili, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Community Development, on how research can contribute to informing better policy in the social sector as a shared strategy for government, academia, and the community.

In his address, His Excellency Dr. Mugheer Al Khaili said:

“Cultivating collaboration between government, academia, and the community necessitates that we recognize the transformative potential of scientific research. By uniting these stakeholders, we are leveraging the power of evidence-based research to inform and shape policies in the social sector. Through joint initiatives, funding support, and data-driven decision-making, we can deliver on our commitment to cultivating a prosperous society in Abu Dhabi and the UAE.”

Dr. Al Khaili added: “Our goal is to foster a holistic approach to development that ensures policies are not only grounded in research but also responsive to the unique needs and aspirations of our diverse population. Together, we are paving the way for a brighter, more sustainable future for Abu Dhabi’s nationals and residents.”

The Government Roundtable included remarks by Her Excellency Sana Mohammed Suhail, Director General of the ECA, and a discussion featuring Her Excellency Dr. Noura Al Ghaithi, Undersecretary of the Abu Dhabi Department of Health, His Excellency Engineer Thamer Rashid AlQasimi, Executive Director of Special Projects and Partnerships at the ECA, and several senior academics. The panelists explored the current landscape of the Abu Dhabi ECD policy framework, the need for a national ECD research agenda, and ways to galvanize community participation and engagement.

Her Excellency Noura Al Ghaithi, Undersecretary of the Department of Health, commented on the Government Roundtable Discussion and said: “Abu Dhabi aims to solidify its position as a leading global destination for excellence in healthcare, and this is reinforced by promoting the quantity and quality of academic research across all health-related areas, especially in Early Childhood Development.

“These studies and research projects support the emirate’s health policies – especially for our youngest children – with clear and verified scientific evidence. To that end, we continue our efforts to reinforce the research sector with policies and regulations that provide researchers with the optimum environment to present their best research ideas in healthcare.”

Dr. Al Ghaithi added, “Creating a robust and integrated Early Childhood Development research ecosystem can also result in new solutions, approaches, and technologies that support to the Department of Health’s efforts to provide the community with high levels of quality and reliability. This can contribute further to a thriving, happy community.”

Her Excellency Sana Mohammed Suhail, Director General of the Early Childhood Authority, commented on the campaign by saying:

“The Early Childhood Authority has a clear vision: we want to ensure that all children, their parents, and their caregivers have access to appropriate services and sufficient relevant knowledge to support optimal child development. This multifaceted campaign aims to promote a robust, rigorous, and impactful research ecosystem in Abu Dhabi and the UAE, supported by a culture of research shared across the early years ecosystem. This means engaging government officials and policymakers, researchers and academic administrators, and the community at large: practitioners, families, and caregivers.”

She added, “Through collaboration, we can create the best opportunities for transformative change in early years policy and practice, and it is through collaboration that we can best channel and direct such transformations towards the most beneficial outcomes for our children and our own institutions.”

Her Excellency emphasized the importance of families – parents and children alike –taking part in this process: “We have robust systems that ensure an ethical and safe research environment for parents and children to take part, with the knowledge that their privacy and data will be protected and handled ethically at all levels.”

Earlier, on Tuesday 31 October, the ECD Research Retreat commenced with an opening address by His Excellency Eng. Thamer Rashed AlQasimi. His Excellency AlQasimi shared insights from the ECA about the role of academic research in shaping Abu Dhabi’s integrated ECD research ecosystem.

“Scientific research plays a crucial role in achieving Abu Dhabi’s Early Childhood Development Strategy and the objectives of the Early Childhood Authority to provide the right conditions for conducting robust locally sourced research that contributes to more in-depth knowledge of our local environment and needs and drives ECD policymaking in Abu Dhabi and the UAE. By doing so, we ensure the achievement of optimum outcomes and insights for decision makers, caregivers, and families to understand and meet our children’s needs.”

Other speakers at the Research Retreat included Dr. Mark Tomlinson, Co-Director of the Institute for Life Course Health Research at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, who gave a keynote address about the role of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in supporting ECD research that can inform future parenting skills and approaches. The Research Retreat also featured a panel discussion that shared governmental and academic views on the ethical aspects of technology in ECD research, as well as a design thinking workshop to introduce new approaches for co-designing solutions for ECD research excellence.

The campaign’s debut was marked by a meeting of the ECA’s Research Working Group, a collective of representatives from the ECA and researchers in the field, in late September, followed by a series of community activations with interactive pavilions and informational stands at public spaces across the emirate in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, and Al Dhafra. The ECA has also organized workshops with Mohamed Bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence and Zayed University to explore new ways of collaboration between government and academia. More workshops and a webinar on “Young Children at the Heart of the Climate Change Conversation” will follow in the coming weeks.

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