Our promise to young children is based on the vision of our founder, Bernard van Leer, and his son, Oscar van Leer. It was their fundamental belief that all children, regardless of geography, religion or economic status, should be able to realise their full potential.

‘Our mission is to improve opportunities for children up to age 8 who are growing up in socially and economically difficult circumstances. We see this both as a valuable end in itself and as a long-term means to promoting more cohesive, considerate, creative and peaceful communities with equal opportunities and rights for all.’

Over the last 64 years, our work has contributed to child-friendly national policies, increased public and private investment in young children, and the provision of direct community services that have benefited millions of families.

Examples of how we support young children to develop to their full potential:

Giving children a voice at the World Bank

Many large-scale projects funded by the World Bank have significant impacts on the lives of children. For example, when the Nile river was dammed in Uganda to create the Bujugali Power Station, families were resettled – but to a site without education or health services for children, or employment opportunities for their parents.

From August to October 2013, the Bernard van Leer Foundation and the Oak Foundation funded the Bank Information Center – an organisation which is unaffiliated with the World Bank, and which advocates for it to promote social and economic justice and ecological sustainability – to hold consultations about Bank projects with groups of children in six countries: Peru, Yemen, India, Uganda, Cambodia and the Philippines.

The children subsequently visited Washington DC to lobby the Bank directly on issues such as considering the impact on children separately from the impact on adults when assessing project safeguards, ensuring that education is not interrupted when children have to be resettled, and consulting with children before engaging in projects that will have impacts on them.

Brazil and Peru commit billions to young children

The Bernard van Leer Foundation invested EUR 1 million in creating and sustaining a national citizen movement for young children which helped to influence the policy priorities of President Ollanta Humala in Peru. The national budget for programmes addressing young children’s health, nutrition, learning and social protection was EUR 2.1 billion higher in 2013 than in 2011, when President Humala was elected.

We also spent 7 years funding a national network for early childhood (RNPI) in Brazil, during which time it grew to include more than 150 organisations. This coalition was a key voice in the multi-billion-euro Brasil Carinhoso (‘Loving Brazil’) policy, announced in 2012 and reported on in last year’s Annual Report, to improve the health, nutrition, learning and protection of impoverished children under 6 years old.

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