Research – KidsRights Index
The KidsRights Index is the first and only ranking that annually measures how children's rights are respected worldwide.
The KidsRights Index is the first and only global ranking of 182 countries worldwide that annually measures how children’s rights are respected, and to what extent countries are committed to improving the rights of children. This is the ninth consecutive edition of the Index, and to reflect on an exceptional year, a special note is published alongside to assess the true impact of the Coronavirus on the children of the world.
The KidsRights Foundation founder and Chairman is Marc Dullaert, former Chairman of the European Network of Ombudsmen for Children. Marc said: “With the ongoing global pandemic, we had to address the devastating impacts and outcomes of COVID-19, and it has unfortunately exceeded our predictions at the outset last year.
“Apart from patients of the Coronavirus, children have been hardest hit, not directly by the virus itself, but fundamentally failed through the deferred actions of governments around the world, despite the signals, which will lead to serious, long-term repercussions for the health of future generations.”
“The full extent of this impact is yet to manifest itself, we are not there yet, and governments will need measures and policies long into the future to deal with this post COVID-19 crisis.”
The special Index note highlights four key impacts of the pandemic in relation to children: violence against children; non COVID-19 vaccinations for children; education and the related issue of school meals; and mental health and wellbeing.
Marc Dullaert said: “Global governments must focus on mental health and education as much as the economy in their post COVID-19 crisis policies to safeguard future generations. Educational recovery is the key to avoiding generational catastrophe.”
Impact on education
It found that: “schools for more than 168 million children have been closed for almost a full year.” Negative examples include the Netherlands, where the Dutch Government closed schools in December to encourage parents to stay at home. Fewer than half the population in 71 countries have access to the Internet, and this drops below 25% in African and South Asian countries. At least one in three schoolchildren has been unable to access remote learning while their schools were closed. UNESCO has acknowledged that: “over 100 million additional children will fall below the minimum proficiency level in reading as a result of the health crisis.”
Increase in domestic violence
The report reflects an astonishing increase in domestic violence and abuse during the lockdowns, with children as victims. Evidence from school closures already suggests an increase in early marriage and sexual violence in some countries. The NGO Plan International suggests an additional 13 million child marriages are likely to occur between 2020 and 2030.
Crisis in mental health and wellbeing
An additional 142 million kids fell into material poverty and lack access to social protection, and a report by UNICEF and the International Labour Organization states that every one percentage point rise in poverty leads to at least a 0.7 percentage point increase in child labour.
Losing access to school meals, often the main or most nutritious meal of the day, has serious consequences for children’s physical development and mental wellbeing, with 370 million kids missing out in the pandemic. In March 2021, in Latin America and the Caribbean alone, 80 million children were still reported to be without daily school meals. In the UK, the Royal College of Psychiatrists identified in April that while the crisis is affecting people of all ages, it is under 18s who are suffering most with mental health issues. They identified: “the devastating effect that school closures, disrupted friendships and the uncertainty caused by the pandemic have had on the mental health of our children and young people.” The report also acknowledges Manchester United and England striker Marcus Rashford’s role in maintaining and extending free school meal services for ‘disadvantaged’ children in the UK.
There were some rare rays of light over the past year. Bangladesh, despite widespread poverty, led an initiative to home school by taking over one of the national TV channels, Bangladesh Television. And both Belgium and Sweden are highlighted as doing their utmost to keep schools open in their countries. Scotland will become the first devolved nation in the world to directly incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law. The Scottish Government adopted several poverty alleviation measures quickly in response to the pandemic, and is also unique in using Child Rights Impact Assessments for all Coronavirus policy interventions that might have a bearing on children.
The KidsRights Foundation consulted with Children’s Ombudspersons across Europe and found that European governments showed insufficient priority for children and their rights in their Coronavirus policies and response measures.
Recommendations for action
To help policymakers with meaningful follow-up actions, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has produced a framework of child rights-based principles and directions (Annex A).
Governments are morally obliged to adopt a Covid Child Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA) for all their current and future Covid and post-Covid policies, and should prioritise this in order to safeguard the rights of future generations, and to avoid a generational catastrophe.
KidsRights Index Report
The annual KidsRights Index is based on the nearly universally ratified United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and provides a general overview of country performance on children’s rights. It also creates a basis for making concrete evidence-based recommendations on how governments might improve on various aspects of children’s rights. The Index domains are: Right to Life; Right to Health; Right to Education; Right to Protection; and Enabling Environment for Child Rights.
Industrialised countries score low on best available budget
The KidsRights Index 2021 shows that countries are not allocating sufficient budget for the realisation of children’s rights. None of the countries which received their new concluding observations in 2020 scored highest for the indicator ‘best available budget/resources’. It is also noteworthy that, on average, industrialised countries scored lowest on this indicator.
The African continent scores highest on the best interest of the child.
The African continent ranked highest of the continents in Domain 5, Enabling Environment for Child Rights.
Austria and Hungary score low on discrimination
The KidsRights Index 2021 shows high levels of discrimination within countries, despite the advent of Black Lives Matter over the past year. No country achieved the highest possible score for the indicator on non-discrimination, and over 60% of the countries received the lowest.
Big fallers from last year’s Index include Austria and Hungary, both scoring badly on discrimination. Hungary falls 97 ranks to 144, with discrimination against Roma children of particular concern. Paraguay jumps 66 places largely as a result of a 45% reduction in maternal mortality rates, while Bahrain and Singapore climb 30 and 20 places respectively through the registration at birth of all children in the country.
UK and Australia score low compared to HDI ranking
Thailand, Latvia and Kazakhstan rate more highly than the likes of China, Hong Kong, the UK, Australia and New Zealand in the priority they show for the needs of their young people. For example, Australia ranks eighth in the Human Development Index (HDI) yet is at 135 in the KidsRights Index; while the UK is 13th on HDI, yet down in 169th place on the KidsRights Index.
In summary, the countries that are doing well overall in achieving economic growth or human development are not necessarily also doing well in their capacity to meet their obligations under the CRC.
In 2021, Iceland continues to top the KidsRights index, with ‘expected years of schooling’ of 18 years for boys and 20 years for girls, followed by Switzerland and Finland; Sierra leone, Afghanistan and Chad occupy the final three places, with boys in Chad having less than nine years of schooling, and girls six.
State of Palestine included for first time
The State of Palestine is included in this year’s KidsRights Index for the first time. The country’s overall position is 104, with a relatively high ranking of 11 in the Domain of Health, where Palestine has done well on various accounts: 99% of the children are immunized and ‘only’ 1.4% of children remain underweight. But the Committee also noted the persistent discrimination against children from Bedouin communities and against girls.
KidsRights is an international non-governmental organization that promotes the wellbeing of very vulnerable children across the world and advocates the realisation of their rights. The KidsRights Index is produced in cooperation with Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus School of Economics, and the International Institute of Social Studies. It sits alongside the Foundation’s prestigious and acknowledged International Children’s Peace Prize, endorsed by the Nobel Peace Laureates, whose recipients have included Malala Yousafzai.
The KidsRights Index may be found here: www.kidsrightsindex.org