Inadequate priority for children's rights in developed countries

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 5 by Portugal (2), Switzerland (3), Finland (4) and Germany (5). Thailand (14) and Tunisia (15) score well too on children's rights worldwide. Afghanistan (181), Sierra Leone (180), Chad (179), Equatorial Guinea (178) and the Central African Republic (177) are at the lowest places in the rankings. The index is an annual ranking that measures to what extent children's rights are respected worldwide and what the 181 ranked countries are doing 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 a basic infrastructure for child rights policy having in place. The low ranking of the UK and New Zealand is caused by discrimination against children from minority groups such as refugees or migrants, the fact that the views of children, and 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 are not doing enough to create a world that is fit for children. I call upon countries such as the UK and New Zealand to take their responsibility in improving the basic principles of the CRC,” said Prof. Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Children do not benefit from economic growth

The research done in the process of compiling 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 in the period 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 behind: the Index shows that children only receive an average of 10 years of education. In India, nearly 36% of children younger than 5 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 so as 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".

About the KidsRights Index: why it matters 

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by all states except one: the United States of America. The adoption of the Convention in 1989 was 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 policies have on the everyday lives of children. The KidsRights Index is a tool to uncover such gaps, chart the performances of countries, and identify themes and trends in the children’s rights arena. The KidsRights Index serves as a watchdog that keeps track of how humanity is promoting or failing the rights of the child. This is especially important in a world full of sustainable development deficits, political unrest and conflict ongoing in many regions.


More information

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 close cooperation with 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. In 2019 this involves a total of 181 countries. The Index pools data from three reputable sources: quantitative data published and regularly updated by: UNICEF and UNDP; and qualitative data published by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in its ‘Concluding Observations’ issued for all states that are legally bound by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (that is all states except the USA). 

The KidsRights Index’s overall ranking and additional information, including a trend report on the rankings in the individual domains, are available at