KidsRights Index 2016: countries falling short on children’s rights

KidsRights, the international children’s rights foundation, in collaboration Erasmus School of Economics and the International Institute of Social Studies, has today published the KidsRights Index 2016. The Index is an annually updated global ranking that charts the extent to which countries worldwide adhere to and are equipped to improve the rights of children. This year’s list underlines that, worldwide, countries are falling short on the implementation of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

KidsRights urges all 163 countries analysed in the Index to increase efforts to combat discrimination against minority groups of children and youth especially. Vulnerable and marginalised children, including refugee children, migrant children, disabled children, street children and indigenous children, are still widely discriminated against. Another area in need of improvement is the much needed cooperation between the state and civil society, which is still underdeveloped in various countries. KidsRights is especially alarmed by the increased threats posed to the safety of children’s rights defenders, journalists and civil society activists. In too many countries such practitioners are being harassed, threatened, abused or jailed.

Moreover, many countries fail in facilitating true child participation. Marc Dullaert, founder and chairman of the KidsRights Foundation, urges countries to do more in this respect: “Not a single one of the 163 countries analysed in the Index achieved the highest possible score on child participation. This means that the views of the 2.2 billion children on this planet are not being heard adequately regarding issues that affect them directly. KidsRights strongly urges all countries to increase efforts to ensure that the views of children are properly respected.”

Overall ranking

Norway is the Index’s number one for the second year in a row. Runners up in 2016’s top ten are Portugal, Iceland, Spain, Switzerland, Slovakia, Ireland, France, Finland and Tunisia. Switzerland and Finland have replaced the Netherlands (now 13th) and Sweden (now 14th) respectively in the top ten. Worst performing countries overall in this year’s Index are Guinea, Angola, Lesotho, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Papua New Guinea, Chad, Afghanistan, Central African Republic and Vanuatu.

Mexico (from 102 to 37), Jamaica (from 103 to 51) and Colombia (from 123 to 60) deserve honourable mentions for having risen among the ranks significantly since last year’s Index. These countries score relatively high as they have each done exceptionally well in fostering an enabling environment for children’s rights. Brazil (from 43 to 107), the United Arab Emirates (from 39 to 78), the Dominican Republic (from 6 to 96) and Iraq (from 120 to 149) score remarkably poorly compared to 2015 and are urged to do more to foster the rights of their youngest generation.

Prosperity does not always guarantee children’s rights

Interestingly, economically better performing countries are not necessarily doing a better job when it comes to safeguarding the rights of children. Italy (81st), Canada (72nd) and Luxembourg (56th), for example, are urged to improve the infrastructures they have built for children’s rights. These wealthy countries are in a position to invest in children’s rights, but fail to do so sufficiently. Tunisia (10th) and Thailand (21st) on the other hand deserve honourable mentions in that respect. Their high ranking in the Index relative to their economic status is to a large extent due to good performances in cultivating an enabling environment for children’s rights.

The KidsRights Index: why it matters

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is ratified by all of the world’s states but one: the United States of America. The adoption of the Convention 26 years ago marked a crucial step in improving children’s rights worldwide. However, there is still a considerable gap between the good intentions of policymakers and the actual effects policy has on the everyday lives of children. Take the UN Sustainable Development Goals, for example. The UN General Assembly adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015. They show yet more concrete attention for the position of children than the earlier Millennium Development Goals did. The scale and ambition of the SDG agenda present unprecedented opportunities to truly improve the daily lives of children and youths. Although the Index is not a direct tool for monitoring performances of individual countries regarding the SDGs, it does provide crucial insights into what is being done and where countries need to do better to guarantee children’s rights.