Amsterdam, May 14th – There is still a significant gap between international children’s rights and the daily reality of children around the world. Even in developed countries the priority for children’s rights is inadequate. This is demonstrated by the KidsRights Index 2019 published today by the international children’s rights organization KidsRights and the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Remarkable are the results of the United Kingdom and New Zealand. They ranked 170 and 169 on the list of 181 researched countries.
Iceland ranks first in the international rankings and is followed in the top five by Portugal (2), Switzerland (3), Finland (4) and Germany (5). Thailand (14) and Tunisia (15) score well too for children’s rights worldwide. Afghanistan (181), Sierra Leone (180), Chad (179), Equatorial Guinea (178) and the Central African Republic (177) are the lowest countries in the rankings. The index is an annual ranking that measures to what extent children’s rights are respected worldwide, and specially which efforts these 181 ranked countries are enacting to improve the rights of children.

Inadequate priority in developed countries

It is especially striking that some economically developed countries, such as the UK and New Zealand, score poorly on the basic principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). These principles include: non-discrimination, acting in the child’s best interests, child participation and having a basic policy infrastructure for children’s rights. The UK and New Zealand’s low rankings are attributed to discrimination against children from minority groups such as refugees or migrants. As well as concerns that the views of children, especially children from a poorer social background, are systematically not being heard in policymaking on issues that affect them and, insufficient investment in children’s rights.
“Developed countries can and should do more to create a world that is fit for children. I call upon countries such as the UK and New Zealand to take their responsibility to improve the realization of the cardinal principles of the CRC more seriously” said Prof. Benyam Dawit Mezmur of the University of the Western Cape, who is also a Member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

Children do not benefit from economic growth

The research used to establish the 2019 KidsRights Index also revealed that, worldwide, economic growth does not always result in better implementation of children’s rights. China, Myanmar, and India, the three countries with the largest economic growth between 2010 to 2016, have all seen their ranking in the KidsRights Index deteriorate. According to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, China does not invest enough in children’s rights. In Myanmar, education is lagging: the Index shows that children only receive an average of 10 years of education. In India, nearly 36% of children younger than five are underweight. With their current economic growth levels, these countries should be able to invest more in efforts to address these child rights deficits.
“It is shocking to see that even in countries that have realized substantial economic growth in recent years, this is not reflected in the daily reality of children,” said Marc Dullaert, founder and chairman of KidsRights and the former Dutch Children’s Ombudsman.

Thailand and Tunisia stand out

With their 14th and 15th position worldwide, Thailand and Tunisia score relatively well in terms of children’s rights compared to their economic status. Going by the CRC Committee’s assessments, within their abilities and available resources, these countries have been particularly good at creating a favorable environment for children’s rights. For instance, new laws were drafted to bring the national legislation in line with the CRC. Tunisia also has a low birth rate among young adults.
According to Marc Dullaert: “Well-performing countries are worthy of praise. Lower ranking countries can take an example from the decisiveness of countries like Thailand and Tunisia”.