KidsRights Index 2020: ‘Children’s rights globally under pressure due to corona crisis
Around the globe, children’s rights are seriously affected by the coronavirus outbreak. So says Marc Dullaert, founding Chairman of the International Children’s Rights organisation KidsRights with the release of the annual KidsRights Index 2020, which was developed in collaboration with Erasmus School of Economics and the International Institute of Social Studies.
The Index shows that countries worldwide allocate insufficient budget for children’s rights, specifically on domains such as protection, health and education. With the economic consequences of the corona crisis, there are no expectations that this will change anytime soon. “This crisis turns back the clock on years of progress made on the wellbeing of children. Therefore, a strong focus for children’s rights is needed more than ever. However, as long as governments are struggling to keep their health care system and the economy running, it’s questionable to what extent they are able to provide this focus. Giving children the cold shoulder can be disastrous in the short, but more so in the long term, for both the current and the future generation”, warns Dullaert.
Not only the economic consequences, but also the measures taken by governments to curb the outbreak of COVID-19 have a disastrous impact on many children. School closures in 188 countries affect 1.5 billion children and youth, leaving boys and girls extra vulnerable to child labor, child marriage and teenage pregnancy. The rise in domestic violence during lockdown measures is especially devastating for girls.
The unprecedented pressure on healthcare has shut down regular vaccination programs for diseases such as polio and measles and will cause a spike of hundreds of thousands in additional infant mortality. So far, the suspension of measles immunization campaigns in at least 23 countries effects more than 78 million children up to the age of 9. Furthermore, the United Nations estimates that an extra 42 to 66 million children could fall into extreme poverty as a result of the crisis this year.
Discrimination against children is a global problem, especially for girls
The KidsRights Index also shows disturbing figures in the domain of ‘discrimination’, one of the general principles of the UN Children’s Rights Convention. More than a third of the countries have the lowest possible score in this area, with several negative outliers among the more industrialised countries. For example, Australia has dropped in the ranking from 19 to 135, due to the treatment of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants and discrimination against Aboriginal children, among others. The discrimination and stigmatisation of Roma and Gypsy children in the United Kingdom places the country in 169th place. Italy is positively mentioned in the Index. It has made significant progress in four of the five areas, partly due to much improved, but still weak, legislation. The Children’s Rights Committee has explicitly mentioned smear campaigns against organisations searching for and rescuing migrants including children in the Mediterranean. Finally, the report warns that discrimination against girls worldwide remains a major concern. In 91 of the 182 countries surveyed, girls are discriminated against and do not enjoy the same rights as boys. In several countries girls do not have the same inheritance rights as boys, and suffer from a lower level of access to education and unequal treatment in legislation.
Iceland in first place, compliments for Italy
In the KidsRights Index 2020, Iceland ranks first as the country where children’s rights are best guaranteed, followed by Switzerland and Finland. Countries receive scores in five domains, including ‘education’, ‘protection’ and ‘enabling environment for child rights’. The performance in the latter category is based on the Concluding Observations adopted by The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Chad, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone are at the bottom of the 2020 Index. There are also major concerns about the impact of persistent instability in countries such as Syria and Venezuela regarding the well-being of children. That Syria has made the effort to appear in front of the CRC is notable nevertheless.