CESI to Collaborate with the Palestinian Child Institute at An-Najah National University

Queen's University Belfast and An-Najah National University signed a Memorandum of Agreement today (Thursday 14 March) to enable the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation at Queen's to collaborate with the Palestinian Child Institute at An-Najah.

The collaboration will support the inclusion of the Palestinian Child Institute as a partner country of the LINKS global network that is hosted and led by the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (CESI). LINKS is the NIHR Global Health Research Group on Early Childhood Development (ECD) for Peacebuilding and represents a strategic network with UNICEF and is supported by partners at Yale, Harvard and New York University.

The network is part of the international Early Childhood Peace Consortium hosted by UNICEF and seeks to support the development and evaluation of ECD programmes in societies affected by conflict.

A team of LINKS researchers, led by Professor Paul Connolly, LINKS Director and Interim Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at Queen’s University, were recently in Nablus, Palestine to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with An-Najah National University, the largest university in Palestine.

Professor Connolly said: “We are delighted to sign this MOU with the Palestinian Child Institute at An-Najah University, and to include Palestine as one of our partner countries in the LINKS research network.

“Our team is already working with researchers and ECD specialists in six countries which have experienced ethnic conflict and divisions including: Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste and Vietnam to evaluate and develop new ECD services. This is part of our wider plan to extend our network over the coming years to include other countries affected by conflict.

“We look forward to working with colleagues at The Palestinian Child Institute and to help make a positive contribution, not just to sustainable development and economic growth, but to help build social cohesion and peace.”

Dr Ali Shaar, Director of the Palestinian Child Institute said: “We very much welcome this opportunity to work with the team from Queen’s University Belfast as part of the wider LINKS research network. Queen’s has established itself as one of the world leaders in the field of research into ECD and peacebuilding.

“Our children in Palestine have suffered significantly due to the ongoing conflict here. This is shown by the high levels of special needs and disabilities amongst our child population and the significant levels of developmental delay. Our work with Queen’s will focus on developing high-quality and effective ECD services for children to begin to address these needs. The collaboration will also contribute to building research capacity amongst our team in the Institute.”

Pictured with Professor Connolly at the signing event is Professor Maher Natsheh, Acting President of An-Najah National University. Looking on are Dr Ali Shaar, Director of the Palestinian Child Institute and Dr Siobhan Fitzpatrick CBE, Cheif Executive of Early Years - The Organisation for Young Children, a partner of the LINKS network.