‘Children’s rights globally under pressure due to corona crisis'

The KidsRights Index 2020 was launched amidst the coronavirus pandemic. While this Index as such does not report results that directly relate to the pandemic, this new overall context definitely required attention, as it may turn out to be a gamechanger for children’s rights.

This is further explained in a brief feature on 'Children’s Rights in Times of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)' written by ISS Professor Karin Arts and published in the 2020 KidsRights Index Research Report: 'The main reason for this is that the challenges the Coronavirus poses to governments worldwide are likely to have a serious and long-lasting effect on the extent to which those governments will focus on actively implementing children’s rights at large, and/or will be able to do so. Controlling the virus and its impact on the health of the population and on the economy, surely (and inevitably) will be top priority for quite some time. So far, in most places, the measures taken have not shown much explicit child rights awareness or sensitivity. This situation is likely to overshadow other policy concerns for quite some time still and to place huge demands on the budgets that governments have available.'      

Not only the economic consequences, but also some of the measures taken by governments to curb the outbreak of Covid-19 have a disastrous impact on many children.

For example, school closures in 188 countries affect 1.5 billion children and youth, and living in lockdown is known to increase vulnerability to domestic violence. According to the United Nations, suspended vaccination campaigns could result in 'hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths” in 2020 “compared to a pre-pandemic counterfactual scenario. This would effectively reverse the last 2 to 3 years of progress in reducing infant mortality within a single year'.

Over a third of all countries have lowest score in area of discrimination against children

Even in ‘normal’ times, the KidsRights Index has produced disturbing evidence on the prevalence of discrimination. More than one third of the countries have the lowest possible score on this indicator. Girls, children with disabilities, asylum seeking, refugee or migrant children are often among the children hit hardest. It is quite likely that this pattern will be reproduced in the unequal impact of Covid-19 on different groups of children, due to discriminatory responses by states and/or societies.   

Once more the KidsRights Index results 2020 reveal that developed countries do not necessarily perform better in taking measures to realize children’s rights than developing countries do. In an article in UK newspaper The Guardian, where KidsRights founding chairman Marc Dullaert is elaborately quoted as well, Professor Karin Arts explains this by pointing out that the KidsRights Index is not an absolute ranking.

Like the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its monitoring Committee, the KidsRights Index measures the performance of states according to their implementation capacity. In other words, for example in terms of resource mobilization for children’s causes, we might expect relatively more from a well-resourced developed state than from a developing country. Once we take this into account, as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child does, surprising rankings might occur. Examples are the ultra-low scores of Australia (135), New Zealand (168) and the UK (169), and the high ranks of Thailand (8) and Tunisia (17).

KidsRights Index 2020

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About the KidsRights Index

KidsRights Index is a long-standing collaborative project of KidsRights, the Erasmus School of Economics (Professors Dinand Webbink and Philip Hans Franses), and the International Institute of Social Studies.

Based on existing data from UNICEF, UNDP and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Index annually ranks state performance on realizing children’s rights.

ISS is especially responsible for domain 5 of the Index on the ‘enabling environment for children’s rights’. This is a unique feature of the KidsRights Index which measures to what extent countries have a basic general ‘infrastructure’ in place for making and implementing child rights policy.

As required by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (binding for all states in the world except the US that has not yet ratified this UN human rights treaty), first, this entails operationalizing the general principles of non-discrimination, the best interests of the child and respect for the views of the child. Second, this involves adopting enabling national legislation, mobilizing the ‘best available’ budget, collecting and analyzing disaggregated data, and state-civil society cooperation.

At present sufficient data are available for ranking a total of 182 countries.