Judge Andrew Becroft calls it a "wake-up call". Professor Bronwyn Hayward calls it "bonkers". What to make of our global ranking on children's rights as 158th out of 165 countries?

It's a hard call between a judge and a professor.

It certainly sounds bad. In the KidsRights Index we rank below Cuba (20), Venezuela (71), Bangladesh (87), Iran (100), Iraq (148), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (153), Ethiopia (137).

We are just above Chad (161) and Afghanistan (164).


We can't be that bad, surely? Countries plagued by tyranny, poverty, war, pestilence and starvation ranked better than us.

The data was compiled under five "domains". When I sorted it according to the individual domains rather than their average, a different picture emerged.

Sorting on the "life" domain (under five mortality and life expectancy), took New Zealand to 17th. On the "health" domain we ranked 36. On "education" 27. On "protection" 35. These rankings aren't bad and the differences among the top countries very small.

But when I sorted the data according to "enabling environment for child rights" we ranked 162 out of 165 countries. It's the "enabling environment" that did for us.

We are also actually not 162. Because richer countries are supposed to do better than poorer countries our "enabling" achievements are weighted down. We are punished in this domain by virtue of being well-off.

For example, the country just above us in this domain is the UK, sitting at 161.

New Zealand and the UK clearly don't sit below most of the world in respecting people's rights, including those of children. It's being rich that forces us down below tinpot countries.

Further, the assessment on the "enabling environment" is qualitative, not quantitative. It's opinion, not fact.


The domain also includes contentious policy: "The extent to which a country has operationalised the general principle of respect for the views of the child. When adults are making decisions that affect children, children have the right to say what they think should happen and have their opinions taken into account."

Do we really want to decide, say, the New Zealand curriculum on what primary school children think? Or whether they should have to go to school?

In our household our children don't count for much when it comes to what they do. If their opinions counted, it would be TV and ice cream all day, every day.

The US is not ranked. It considers the policy of "child rights" too contentious even to sign.

It also defies common sense that Swaziland, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Serbia are better than us at providing an "enabling environment for child rights".

I think the professor is right. Our ranking on the index is bonkers. We have problems when it comes to looking after children but our KidsRights ranking isn't one of them.