CHILDREN AND GLOBAL ADVERSITY: A RIGHTS-BASED APPROACH
Effectiveness of the means & coordination activities planned in building a research program
Each year, thousands of children enter Québec, fleeing from countries and communities in which there has been war, violence, and/or natural disaster (Ministère de l’Immigration et des Communautés Culturelles (MICC, 2009). These refugee children are sometimes accompanied by a parent or caregiver and sometimes arrive alone as refugees, or without documented legal status, seeking asylum. In Québec, between 1998 and 2007, 8 of the top 10 source countries for accepted refugees were war-affected nations, representing nearly 35,000 people (MICC, 2009). Recent natural disasters have similarly increased the flow of refugees, including children, to Québec (MICC, 2010). Children displaced from war and disaster zones witness or directly experience severe and unimaginable violence and upheaval. They have often lived in societies where basic social structures and systems have been degraded or completely collapsed. In addition, the experience of flight from their country of origin may present additional threats to their safety, alongside the complexities of resettlement to a new context (Denov & Bryan, 2010; Denov & Bryan, in press). While there is great variability in children’s experiences, their journeys to a new context and the conditions in which they find themselves as new arrivals, children displaced from war and disaster zones endure significant trauma, stress, and adversity that can severely impact their functioning and development (Betancourt et al., 2010; Endo et al., 2009). And yet, as refugee children, this group has been largely overlooked, particularly in Québec, where they deserve greater attention and ensuing action. As long-time child advocate Graça Machel has noted: “war violates every right of the child…the impact of conflict [and disaster] on children is everyone’s responsibility, and it must be everyone’s concern” (UNICEF, 2009: v, 3).
This program of research is concerned with exploring the complex realities of war and disaster-affected children living in Québec. Our emerging multidisciplinary team will collectively tackle the theoretical, methodological and service provision considerations pertinent for this group of children, and in particular, the implications for Québec policy and practice. Drawing on the talents of 15 of Québec’s top researchers, this research infrastructure will advance and cement Québec’s leadership role in the realm of children and global adversity, paving the way for innovative research, policy and clinical practice.
This multidisciplinary research team has been designed with two core objectives. First, we aim to bring together otherwise isolated research projects on children and global adversity, with a primary focus on war and disaster-affected children. The pooling of intellectual and practical resources to explore this population has been highly inadequate. There have been few opportunities to collaborate, share knowledge, develop research networks, explore interdisciplinary research themes and conceptualize best practices regarding these children’s education, mental health, and access to social services. Second, we seek to develop a well-defined research agenda, which will produce new analytic vocabularies and approaches for research and practice with war and disaster-affected children in Québec. In particular, by employing a rights-based approach, which draws on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and focuses on children as social actors and agents, rather than as passive victims, the team’s research activities will contribute to the debates currently transpiring in the realm of children and global adversity.