The release of the KidsRights Index 2017 comes at a pivotal moment. As the UK gears up for June's general election, the news that Britain has plummeted from 11th to 156th place in the global children's rights rankings raises questions about the adequacy of British legislation and implementation on the rights of the child.
The data behind the Kids Rights Index has been pooled from two reputable sources: UNICEF and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The former provides regularly updated quantitative data, while the latter is founded upon detailed individual country reports for all states that are party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In Britain's case, it was information collected by the CRC specifically that highlighted the country's shortcomings. Whilst the country scored highly in the following domains; Right to Life, Right to Health, Right to Education and Right to Protection, it fell short in the "enabling environment" category. In short, this means that whilst the UK possesses the means to engender positive change, it needs to do more to enforce and provide the necessary conditions to realize children's rights.
The Kids Rights Index provides concrete recommendations on what States should do to improve the children's rights situation in their country. It was noted, for example, that Muslim children in the UK face increased discrimination following recent anti-terrorism measures. Accordingly, the Index advises that counter-extremism measures such as the Prevent Strategy be re-assessed to ensure that they do not have a discriminatory or stigmatizing impact on any group of children. Similarly, it calls for awareness-raising around discrimination of Roma / gypsy and refugee children, which has been showing a concerning upward trend in recent years.
The United Kingdom's record in the CRC's 2016 Concluding Observations shows that the country achieved the lowest possible score on six out of seven indicators, namely: non-discrimination; best interests of the child; respect for the views of the child; enabling legislation; budget and data. The UK's score contrasts sharply with that of Portugal, this year's global frontrunner, whose strong performance across the board meant that it nudged Norway out of pole position.
I would urge the UK to treat non-discrimination as a policy priority in 2017, as discrimination against vulnerable groups of children is severely hampering the opportunities for future generations to reach their full potential. The Index's findings are a call to action for underperforming developed countries such as the UK and New Zealand which have been found wanting in the children's rights arena, while many of the world's poorest nations are leading the way. That the UK has been toppled from its 11th place by far poorer countries such as Thailand and Tunisia should ring some alarm bells.
Clearly the industrialised world is neglecting its leadership responsibilities and failing to invest in the rights of children to the best of its abilities. This Index has revealed some uncomfortable truths; let's use them as a springboard for change.