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 181 countries in 2019.

The Index covers five domains with a total of 20 Indicators. It consolidates the most crucial general children’s rights areas 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).

Why is the KidsRights Index important?

The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by nations but one: The United States of America. Its adoption 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 everyday 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 comprehensible to all, so as to stimulate the 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 Children’s Rights Convention. The Children’s Rights Convention 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. In general, 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 (see below). 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 a ranking on where children have the best life. The KidsRights Index ranks how good countries adhere to children’s rights. This is not only determined in absolute indicators, such as the Under 5 – mortality rate, but it is also determined in relatively aspects, such as the available resources and budget. In line with CRC, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child considers the implementation record of states parties to the Convention with a certain level of consideration for the development level and/or implementation capacity of those states parties. According to article 4 of the CRC, states have to mobilize ‘the maximum extent of their available resources’. This 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 www.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 Index contains most up to date data available. However, for some of the countries scored in domain 5 the scoring is based on dated information. This happens when a state fails to report regularly to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. 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 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 comprises 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. This is a total number of 182 countries in 2020. At present the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) is ratified by all of the world’s nations but one: the United States of America.

For some countries there is not enough data to be assessed in the Index:

Asia and the Pacific: Marshall Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Tuvalu
Africa: Somalia, South Sudan
Industrialised countries: Andorra, Poland, Liechtenstein, Hong Kong, USA
Latin America and Caribbean: Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Turks and Caicos Islands
Middle East and North Africa (MENA): State of Palestine

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 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.