Global researchers, Kidsrights Foundation on Tuesday, has published its annual rankings of children’s rights in 182 countries with the UK scoring poorly and ranking behind countries including Sudan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
The country’s poor treatment of Roma and Gypsy children was criticised while its anti-terrorism strategy, Prevent, was found to have a stigmatising effect on Muslim children.
Iceland scored top for the second year running followed by Switzerland, Finland and Sweden.
The coronavirus lockdowns are likely to derail a decade’s worth of progress made on the wellbeing of children unless governments take swift action, according to the global research foundation.
The foundation said the measures taken by governments to curb the outbreak of COVID-19 have a disastrous impact on many children as school closures in many countries affected the children and the youth, making them vulnerable to child labour, child marriage and teenage pregnancy.
Meanwhile, 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.
The advocacy group’s chairman, Marc Dullaert, told the Guardian the pandemic would have a dire impact: “Our index shows that even before COVID-19, countries were not allocating sufficient budgets around the protection of child rights. Now we expect the economic consequences of the crisis to turn the clock back 10 years on the progress made around the wellbeing of children, unless governments take swift action.”
Countries are scored using UN data and evidence collected from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. They are assessed across five areas including health, education, and enabling an environment that promotes child rights.
“Overall, we see two big red flags in the findings this year,” said Dullaert. One is lack of government funding around children’s health, education and protection.
The other is around the discrimination of children with more than a third of countries having the lowest possible score in this area.
“We see in 91 of 182 countries that girls do not have the same rights as boys in terms of inheritance rights, access to education and equal treatment in legislation. It is not only in developing countries that there is a problem with discrimination.”
Italy ranked 15th in the index, up from 74, after being commended for adopting laws on cyberbullying and protecting children with disabilities. It was criticised for smear campaigns against organisations helping migrants.
The index is not an absolute ranking of countries where children have the best life but nations are scored relative to their capacity to implement children’s rights.
“Once we take this into account, surprising rankings might occur,” said Professor Karin Arts, of the International Institute of Social Studies, who was among those who compiled the data.
“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),” she said.
Australia has dropped from 19 last year to 135 because of the poor treatment of refugee and migrant children, as well as Aboriginal young people who were found to be discriminated against in ways that affected their rights to education and health.
Chad has fallen behind Afghanistan to reach the bottom of the rankings while Sierra Leone has the third worst result. (Source: The Guardian)