What is the KidsRights Index?

The KidsRights Index is the annual global index published by the KidsRights Foundation which charts how countries adhere to and are equipped to improve children’s rights. The KidsRights Index is an initiative of the KidsRights Foundation, in cooperation with Erasmus University Rotterdam: Erasmus School of Economics and the International Institute of Social Studies. It is a ranking of all states that have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child for which sufficient data is available. A total of 185 countries are ranked in 2022.

The Index covers five domains with a total of 20 indicators. It consolidates the most crucial general children’s rights indicators and implementation requirements of the CRC for which sufficient data is available. The five domains are: 1. Right to Life, 2. Right to Health, 3. Right to Education, 4. Right to Protection and 5. Enabling Environment for Child Rights.

Domain 5, the ‘Enabling Environment for Child Rights’ – or Child Rights Environment in short – is an important and unique domain within the KidsRights Index. It reveals the extent to which countries have operationalized the general principles of the CRC according to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (non-discrimination; best interests of the child; respect for the views of the child/participation) and the extent to which there is a basic ‘infrastructure’ for making and implementing child rights policy (in the form of enabling national legislation; mobilization of the ‘best available’ budget; collection and analysis of disaggregated data; and state-civil society cooperation for child rights).

The KidsRights Index’s overall ranking and additional information, including a trend report of the rankings on the individual domains and other available information, is available at www.kidsrightsindex.org.

Why is the KidsRights Index important?

The adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989 marked a crucial step in improving children’s rights across the globe. However, there is still a considerable gap between the good intentions of policymakers and the actual effects policy has on the day to day lives of children. The KidsRights Index is currently the only tool equipped to uncover said gaps, chart the performances of countries and identify themes and trends in the child rights arena. Its significance is arguably greater than ever, given the rise of political unrest and even war in many regions.

The KidsRights Index is a tool to make existing, authoritative and comparable data on the state of children’s rights around the world more easily accessible to governments, civil society, the general public and other relevant stakeholders. We want to make the comprehensive reports of the UN CRC more understandable to stimulate discussion of children’s rights. Based on the results of the Index, concrete recommendations can be made to various countries to improve.

The KidsRights Index measures performance in five domains. Has a weighting factor been applied?

All domains from the KidsRights Index have the same weight. This has been deliberately chosen. The performance of countries across all domains of the Index is important for the implementation and compliance with child rights as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child does not give priority to certain children’s rights; the KidsRights Index also does not.

The scores for each domain are calculated as the mean of the scores on the underlying indicators. The scores are standardised between a minimum of 0.01 and a maximum of 1. If scores of indicators are missing then the domain score is calculated over the score of the remaining indicators.

The total score of the KidsRights Index is calculated as the geometric mean of the scores on the five specific domains. The geometric mean is used, instead of the arithmetic mean,  because it makes it more difficult to compensate for low scores on specific domains. Compensation is not desired, because all children’s rights are considered important. An extremely low score in one area of children’s rights, for example on providing an ‘enabling environment for child rights’, can therefore not be compensated with a high score on for example ‘education’.

Why are these 5 domains chosen?

The chosen domains cover as many aspects of the lives of children with reliable and comparable data that are currently available. The KidsRights Index is a combination of quantitative and qualitative indicators that measure both measurable rights, such as the right to education and the right to life, as the more qualitative rights such as non-discrimination and participation.

What do the colours mean? And what does it mean when a country is ranking 16-31, for example?

The index is a ranked country list, with colour-coding indicating relevant clusters of rankings. There are five different clusters which display a more or less similar performance level, as each cluster concerns countries for which the scores belong to the same distribution. Within a cluster the scores of countries are thus more similar than across clusters. The clusters are expressed in coloured world maps on www.kidsrightsindex.org.

A ranking of 16-31 means that that country shares a rank with several countries that received the exact same score. Only when scores are different a country can be ranked individually.

Why do some of the richer countries score (much) lower than some of the poorer countries?

The KidsRights index is not an absolute ranking of countries in which children have the best life, the best living circumstances or the maximum level of respect for their rights. In accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the practice of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, in domain 5 of the KidsRights Index countries are scored relatively to their capacity to implement children’s rights. According to article 4 of the CRC, countries need to “take measures to the maximum extent of their available resources” to realize children’s rights. The Index recognizes this principle particularly in its domain 5, which is based on the Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. This will be expressed in the scores of these countries in domain 5 and may have different actual implications for some states as compared to others.

For example, a highly developed country can be expected to mobilize more resources than a least developed country. Accordingly, in situations in which relatively limited means are available to implement the CRC, political will to genuinely prioritize children’s rights by allocating the maximum/best available budget can make a significant difference. Likewise, certain well-resourced countries might nevertheless have failed to adequately address discrimination of children or may not have been active on gathering disaggregated data on the situation of (particular groups of) children in that country. This explains why in certain situations perhaps rather unexpected scores may be obtained on the KidsRights Index. It also might be caused by the fact that the CRC Committee assesses a state more strictly over time (for example because previous Concluding Observations were not acted upon).

What data sources are used for the KidsRights Index?

The Index pools data from three reputable sources: quantitative data published and regularly updated by UNICEF at https://data.unicef.org/ and UNDP (www.hdr.undp.org/data) and qualitative data published by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in its Concluding Observations for all states that are legally bound by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Is the data used up to date?

The KidsRights Index contains the most up to date data available. In the KidsRights Index 2023, 44 countries are included for which the data in Domain 5 is older than ten years. The analysis for these countries is based on Concluding Observations from 2012 and before. This was done because more recent data is not available, as these countries have not reported on their CRC performance to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child after 2012. The ranking of these countries may therefore not reflect the current children’s rights situation.

Even though the information is dated, these countries are still included in the KidsRights Index, as the Index remains the only source of information on the CRC that allows for international comparison. It also underlines the need for countries to submit their country reports and be reviewed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child on a regular basis (every five years).

How many countries are part of the KidsRights Index and why?

The KidsRights Index provides a ranking of all states that are parties to the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and for which sufficient data is available. As of 2023, this is a total number of 193 countries. At present the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) is ratified by all of the world’s states except one: the United States of America. For three countries there is still not enough data to be assessed in the Index (Niue, the Holy See, and Liechtenstein).

Why is the US not ranked in the KidsRights Index?

The United States of America have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and have therefore not been included in the KidsRights Index. As they have not ratified the Convention they are not legally bound by it and do not report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. Thus, no data is available for domain 5 ‘Child Rights Environment’ and the US therefore cannot be included in the KidsRights Index.

What happens if there is not enough data available?

The score for a domain is not calculated if more than half of the indicators of that domain have a missing value. A country is not included in the overall Index if the score on domain 5 ‘Child Rights Environment’ is missing. A country is also not included if more than half of all the domain scores are missing (e.g. when three or more domains are missing).

The advantage of this new approach is that the scores for the domains and the total Index are now completely based on the most recent available data (i.e. there are no more imputations of missing values based on historical data). Moreover, the restrictions on calculating the domain scores and the overall score make sure that these scores are based on a substantial number of indicators. In the previous versions of the KidsRights Index, the score of countries with many missing values could be based on just a small number of indicators, and therefore be sensitive for very high or low scoring based on a few indicators.

Who are involved in the publication of the KidsRights Index? What is their experience/specific added value?

The KidsRights Index is an initiative of the KidsRights Foundation, in cooperation with Erasmus University Rotterdam: Erasmus School of Economics and the International Institute of Social Studies each with their own valuable expertise: the social scientific contribution is provided by the International Institute of Social Studies, the economical and arithmetic scientific contribution by the Erasmus School of Economics and KidsRights Foundation takes care of the publication, communication and advocacy.

What is the Climate Change Domain?

We are currently exploring whether it is possible to construct a climate change domain (or Domain 6) which integrates climate change concerns into the ranking of states on their child rights performance. In 2023 we experimented by for the first time attempting to design such a Domain 6 and analysing briefly the changes that it would bring to the overall KidsRights Index ranking of states. The information used relates to the level of exposure of children to climate and environmental hazards, shocks, or stresses in their respective countries.

For the 2024 KidsRights Index we will check whether additional information could be used, for instance (and by analogy to our methodology in Domain 5) the remarks on climate change made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. This is likely to remain work in progress for quite some time since at the moment the available data fall short in various respects.

How are the countries scored in the Climate Change domain?

The scores for the countries in the experimental Climate Change domain are derived by transforming the ‘Climate and Environmental Factors’ (CEF) scores of the countries reported in UNICEF’s ‘The Climate Crisis is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index’ (2021).

Has the Climate Change domain been incorporated into the KidsRights Index?

The climate change domain has not yet been incorporated into the KidsRights Index due to lack of sufficient data. As per UNICEF’s report ‘The Climate Crisis is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index’ (2021), the data is available only for 163 countries, whereas KidsRights Index 2023 ranks 193 countries. In addition, the nature of these data is different from that of the data used across the other Domains making up our Index.

As we wrote in section 3 of the 2023 KidsRights Index report: “individual states are not in the position to curb climate change single-handedly and may be hit hardest by this phenomenon due to, for instance, their geographical location while they may carry least responsibility for the causes of climate change”.

This makes this problem yet more complex and creates more difficulties for establishing whether state obligations are met, than is the case for the child rights efforts measured in the other Domains of the Index. For that reason, the Climate Change Domain (Or Domain 6) has not yet been included structurally in the Index. At this stage it is still too experimental for such inclusion.