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New Brunswick tests ground-breaking child’s rights monitoring platform

Author: Hillary Creamer Robinson

Posted on Jul 13, 2023

Category: UNB Saint John , UNB Fredericton

Dr. Vaghri

Photo: Dr. Ziba Vaghri and her team of researchers have developed GlobalChild, a child's rights monitoring platform being piloted in New Brunswick.

The University of New Brunswick is shining a light on innovation and entrepreneurship at UNB through stories that inspire, transform, provoke, and drive society toward a brighter, healthier tomorrow. This is the final story in the series.

A University of New Brunswick (UNB) researcher and her team of experts say New Brunswick is the first jurisdiction to pilot a ground-breaking child’s rights monitoring platform.

She also says recognizing and respecting the voice of the child is imperative, and that violations of these principles hit at the heart of children’s human rights.

Dr. Ziba Vaghri, associate professor and research chair in child rights and child development within the Integrated Health Initiative (IHI) at UNB's Saint John campus, has more than 20 years of international experience in child health, development and rights.

She and her team have developed GlobalChild, a comprehensive child rights monitoring platform. The project, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and grounded in the principles of human rights and child development, has been created under the guidance of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and in collaboration with nine Canadian and 19 international universities and agencies.

The platform is the first comprehensive instrument designed to support implementing and monitoring the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC).

As principal investigator, Dr. Vaghri has led the research and development of the program, including building the child’s rights indicators based on the UN CRC. The platform incorporates indicators that were reviewed by more than1000 child rights experts, including six former chairs of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. It is now being piloted in French and English.

“GlobalChild is collecting data on a variety of rights; for example, a child’s right to education, to name one,” said Dr. Vaghri. “The platform will help us understand what kind of programs, budgetary allocations and policies are in place to support this right and their impact on children’s educational outcomes.

It will tell us what children, with the current systems in place, are tracking - and who is left behind.”

Dr. Vaghri says Policy 713 in New Brunswick, which sets the minimum standard for schools to provide safe, welcoming and inclusive environments for LGBTQ students, has direct relevance to their rights under the CRC, which all governments have an obligation to respect, promote and fulfill.

“This is an aspect of the lives of children that can affect the way they feel about the world at a critical time – their brains are still developing, and they are acquiring new skills and competencies at an accelerated rate,” she said.

“While the CRC recognizes parents and their significant role in the lives of children, the respect to the right of the child is foundational. The right to be heard is one of the pillars of the CRC.”

“The voice of the child should not be overshadowed by anyone else’s voice, not even parents.”

Dr. Vaghri has assembled a children's advisory board of 15 Saint John-based youth who will provide feedback that will inform the GlobalChild platform.

Dr. Vaghri is pleased that New Brunswick is the very first pilot site for GlobalChild. “There will forever be the stamp of New Brunswick on the platform,” she said.

Along with her team, Dr. Vaghri is collecting data from a number of departments and organizations within the Government of New Brunswick (GNB). The Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour is the organizing body for GNB. The pilot is a shared undertaking with the New Brunswick Office of Child and Youth Advocate.

The collected data will be invaluable for researchers and policymakers and useful in identifying the province’s strengths and weaknesses. “It will provide a good institutional self-assessment and serve tremendously for data-driven policy, planning and development,” says Dr. Vaghri.

“It’s an amazing opportunity not just for the province but for Canada. GlobalChild has been built under the guidance of the UN and a vast international team of experts, but it’s a Canadian ingenuity built relying upon Canadian public funds,” said Dr. Vaghri.

As signatories submit data to the platform, GlobalChild will provide new opportunities to enhance UNB’s leadership role in data research. The resulting data pool will provide opportunities for data research and security collaboration within UNB and across Canada.

In the meantime, Dr. Vaghri has been busy with work that will further support GlobalChild. Last year, she launched the InspiRights project with another impressive team of international experts and UNB researchers, Drs. Ted McDonald, Suzanne Hindmarch, and Shelly Doucet.

The team, known as the U6 Consortium, is comprised of universities from six regions around the world. UNB is the North American representative and the secretariat of the project. The group is working to gather data on best practices in support of children’s rights from all regions and will help inform GlobalChild.

Outcomes from the project’s first 12 months will be reviewed this fall at Üsküdar University’s Child’s Rights Symposium in Istanbul, Turkey. Üsküdar is a member of the U6 Consortium.

This year, through funding from NBHRF and NBIF, Dr. Vaghri assembled the Child Advisory Board (CAB). The CAB is a cohort of 15 Saint John-based youth from diverse backgrounds who meet periodically to discuss and share their views and insights on different aspects of GlobalChild.

“First, we provide child-friendly information on what the project is about,” said Dr. Vaghri. “Then, we consult the CAB. We ask their opinions about certain issues over the course of our research.”

“My research program is all about children and we cannot overlook their input and dismiss their voices. Their voices will be reflected in our work.”

Dr. Vaghri also recently published an open-access book that explores children’s well-being indicators and research as it relates to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The book now has more than 400,000 downloads. Dr. Vaghri is writing her second book, a compilation of additional research undertaken during the development of the GlobalChild platform.

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Social innovation lab connects early childhood educators
Collaborative success: Jake Augustine's journey to leadership and empowerment
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