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UNB researcher makes NB home of powerful tool to monitor children's rights

New Brunswick to be the first jurisdiction in the world to pilot the GlobalChild platform

One UNB researcher and her team of experts are putting New Brunswick on the map as a leader in children’s rights advocacy and policy development.

Dr. Ziba Vaghri, senior research associate in the Department of Psychology on UNB’s Saint John campus, has over 20 years of international experience in child health, development and rights. Her appointment supports the growing field of health research on UNB’s Saint John campus, particularly the interdisciplinary Bachelor of Health, as a part of and the Integrated Health Initiative (IHI) a unique program offering curriculum that integrates arts, business and science, and future graduate programs.

With Dr. Vaghri’s arrival, UNB is now the home of 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 in collaboration with the United Nations and nine Canadian and 19 international universities and agencies. The platform will support the implementation and monitoring of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC).

Listen: Dr. Ziba Vaghri on why New Brunswick is emerging as a leader in the field of children's rights.

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 has been populated with the finalized indicators – which were reviewed by over 100 child rights experts, including six former chairs of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and is now ready to be piloted in French and English.

'A very powerful tool for child’s rights'

“GlobalChild, using indicators, will collect data on a variety of rights; for example, a child’s right to education. 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 are left behind.

“We have developed a very powerful tool to monitor every right of all children," says Dr. Vaghri.

In 2018, the Kingdom of Morocco signed an MOU with the GlobalChild team to be the first pilot site of the tool, however, the planning was halted due to the pandemic. New Brunswick will be the first jurisdiction in the world to pilot the GlobalChild platform. “New Brunswick is very progressive in terms of child’s rights advocacy and awareness and there’s a high concentration of child’s rights activities in place,” says Dr. Vaghri. “This is huge for our province. There will forever be the stamp of New Brunswick as the first place in the world to implement a platform that will eventually become the child rights monitoring tool across the globe.”

The data collected from GlobalChild will be invaluable for researchers and policy makers and will be 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.

“I invite government officials and NGOs to participate in this pilot. It’s an amazing opportunity not just for the province but for Canada. GlobalChild has been built in collaboration with the UN and a vast international team of experts, but it’s a Canadian ingenuity built relying upon Canadian public funds” says Dr. Vaghri. “A first pilot in Canada makes total sense to me.”

The post-New Brunswick pilot plan is to continue piloting the platform in one country from each of the world’s five regions and then work towards its global deployment as the single CRC report-writing tool for all 196 countries. “This will shine a huge spotlight on this beautiful province while also creating jobs and other exciting opportunities. The pilot will confer an advisory capacity to the participants of the N.B. pilot during the subsequent pilots,” says Dr. Vaghri.

Data to provide UNB with new research opportunities

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

“New Brunswickers are dedicated to their province,” says Dr. Vaghri, “and when I see a small place like this make such huge progress in child’s rights advocacy, I am so inspired. This is not a solo journey, but for my part, I am going to move heaven and earth to make sure the New Brunswick based pilot is a success.”