►KEYNOTE Building Brains, Building Futures | Pia Rebello Britto, UNICEF (ECPC Emeritus member)

April 18, 2019

“This is a movement that requires all of us, because you are science, you are practitioners, you are parents, you have the skill set, you represent the geographies of the world, you have the networks… and, because you believe and have the ability to make change.”


It takes a child to raise a village – yes, you read that right. Join Dr. Pia Britto to learn about young children’s brain development, and how the right interventions in the early years of life build stronger individuals, stronger communities, sustainable development and peace.

Early childhood is a critical time for individual growth. This short period is unique because of the unparalleled speed at which brain architecture develops. This development is the continuous acquisition of skills and abilities across the domains of cognition, language, motor, social and emotional development—in short, what we need to think, solve problems, communicate, express our emotions, build resilience, and form relationships. A child’s development results from interactions with the environment, therefore the experiences in the first few years of life have serious, long-lasting effects. The brain is like a sponge that soaks up positive and negative experiences, which in turn influence the blueprint of its architecture.

In this video, Dr. Britto explains the outcomes of both positive and negative experiences in early childhood. She dives into the neuroscience of how a nurturing environment can effectuate healthy brain development, and what ‘nurturing’ means; how this environment can be enabled by early childhood services; and how this contributes to sustainable development and social cohesion. Conversely, Dr. Britto expounds the potentially lifelong impacts of negative experiences on social-emotional wellbeing, memory, and learning, which can later manifest as a reduced ability to earn and form positive interpersonal relationships, and exacerbated distrust. For society, this can mean higher unemployment rates, thus higher public expenditure; intergenerational poverty; and a perpetuation of inequity and ultimately, violence and conflict.

Watch this video to understand how giving every child the best start in life can make a world of difference for them, and a difference in the world for us. NOW is the time for all of us to act to build brains, and build futures.

22:18 ENG / Subtitles


Pia Rebello Britto, Ph.D., is Global Chief and Senior Advisor for Early Childhood Development at UNICEF, New York Headquarters. She was formerly Assistant Professor at Yale University. Dr. Britto is known for her work on developing, implementing and evaluating early childhood programs and policies around the world. In particular, she has strengthened the application of evidence for programming, promoted the role of governance and finance of national systems in achieving equity, access and quality, developed and evaluated models for implementation of quality early childhood services, supported the role of parents and caregivers, including women’s economic empowerment and the association to peace building and social cohesion. Dr. Britto has been instrumental in the global movement towards establishing the transformative role of Early Childhood Development in the Sustainable Development Agenda. Dr. Britto is the recipient of several national and international grants and awards in recognition for her work and has published extensively.

Recommended Reading
pia r britto, PhD


  1. UNICEF Early Childhood Development
  2. Learning for Peace - Côte d’Ivoire, Women’s Group and ECD, Video.

Recommended reading:

  1. L.Angelica Ponguta; C. Donaldson; F. Affolter; P. Connolly; L. Dunne; S. Miller; P. Britto; R. Salah; J. Leckman. (2018). Early childhood development programs, peacebuilding, and the Sustainable Development Goals: Opportunities for interdisciplinary research and multisectoral partnerships. In: Verma S., Petersen A. (eds) Developmental Science and Sustainable Development Goals for Children and Youth. Social Indicators Research Series, vol 74. Springer, Cham.
  2. Britto, P. R., S. J. Lye, K. Proulx, A. K. Yousafzai, S. G. Matthews, et al. (2017). Nurturing care: promoting early childhood development. Lancet 389, no. 10064 : 91-102.
  3. UNICEF. (2017). Early moments matter for every child. New York: UNICEF.
  4. UNICEF. (2015). Starting early to build stronger and more peaceful societies (Eng). New York: UNICEF.
  5. UNICEF. (2014). Building better brains, UNICEF brief.  New York : UNICEF.
  6. Britto, Pia R., Rima Salah, Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Jacqueline Bhabha, Anwarul K. Chowdhury, Gary R. Gunderson, Cigdem Kagitcibasi, Lucy Nusseibeh, Olayinka Omigbodun, Mikiko Otani et al. (2014). Creating effective programs and policies to reduce violence and promote peace. In Pathways to peace: The transformative power of children and families, edited by James F. Leckman, Catherine Panter-Brick and Rima Salah, 361-384. The MIT Press.


Watch 14 compelling talks by 25 world champions in evidence-based science and practice, education, human migration, web technology and media. Learn why they join together in expertise to pave a road to hope and build pathways to peace through the transformative power of children and families. Hear them sound the global call to action as they launch the ECPC Pledge to Action for Peace. 
  • Be informedMeet the conference presenters who share with you their knowledge, generated from the front lines of this burgeoning field of peacebuilding through early childhood development (ECD). Read their biographies and access additional learning materials.
  • Get involved. Help us pave the road to hope and The Culture of Peace by sharing these series videos with your friends and colleagues.
  • Build peace! Take the ECPC Pledge of Action for Peace, launched by conference speaker, Miss Lames Abdelrahman, IRIS Refugee Ambassador from The Sudan.


This ECPC event was organized by and made possible with support from Queen’s University Belfast LINKS, Yale University, UNICEF and the ECPC.


Distinguished ECPC affiliated presenters join us from the halls of Yale University (Child Study Center, the MacMillan Center for Area Studies, Web Services) Queen’s University Belfast, the United Nations, The Global Movement for The Culture of Peace, UNICEF, Sesame Workshop, ACEV-Mother Child Education Foundation, IRIS-Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, and the NGO Committee on Migration.


The ECPC was established to grow a global movement for peace, social justice and prevention of violence through using evidence-informed strategies to enable the world community to advance peace, security and sustainable development. We must address root causes of violence and conflict, and we must empower children and families to be agents of change to advance social cohesion and peace. 


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