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NPGs - a measure of the Convention

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first human rights agreement to include basic economic and social rights. All ratifying countries are obliged "to diminish infant and child mortality" and to "combat disease and malnutrition." The Convention also calls upon nations to make sure that all children have access to education.

Obviously it is easier for richer nations to meet these obligations, and the Convention caters for this by declaring that countries "shall undertake such measures to the maximum extent of their available resources."

This of course is difficult to measure. How can parents and citizens know if their government is attempting to meet these basic social rights to the best of its resources?

The basis of such judgements must be international comparison. A country cannot claim that it is meeting basic needs to the maximum extent of its available resources if far poorer countries are doing much better. A country with a child death rate of 250 per 1000 births or a malnutrition rate of 30%, for example, cannot claim that this is entirely due to poverty if lower rates have been achieved by much poorer countries.

It has been obvious for some time that some nations have achieved levels of child well-being - whether measured by survival, nutrition, or educational attainment - that are far higher than in other countries at a similar economic level.

For the past three years, The Progress of Nations has systematized such comparisons by calculating the average level of child well-being (as measured by such indicators as the under-five mortality rate, the malnutrition rate, and the percentage of children who reach grade 5 of primary school) for any given level of economic development (as measured by per capita GNP).

For each indicator and each country, the gap between the actual level and the average level is termed the national performance gap (NPG). NPGs can, of course, be positive or negative.

Despite inadequate statistics, the NPG provides an approximate measure of how well each country is doing for its children in relation to its resources. It is therefore a measure of Article 4 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child - monitoring whether nations are meeting their children's rights for survival, nutrition, and education "to the maximum extent of their available resources."

The tables below show some of the worst NPGs in child survival, nutrition, and education. NPGs for all countries can be found on pages 50 to 51.

The Convention also calls for the basic rights of children to be met "within the framework of international cooperation." A long-standing part of that framework is the agreement that the industrialized nations should give 0.7% of GNP in official development assistance. The difference between actual aid levels and the 0.7% of their GNP aid target is therefore also a measure of the `performance gap' of the industrialized nations (listed in The aid record).

Countries where the percentage of children malnourished is more than 10 points higher than the average for that country's level of economic development (per capita GNP)
                       % of under-fives malnourished
                        Actual   Expected   Gap

India                     69          31    -38
Bangladesh                66          35    -31
Mauritania                48          24    -24
Papua New Guinea          35          19    -16
Guatemala                 34          19    -15
Indonesia                 40          25    -15
Sri Lanka                 38          23    -15
Malaysia                  23          10    -13
Pakistan                  40          27    -13
Philippines               34          21    -13
Namibia                   26          15    -11

Countries where the under-five mortality rate is more than 30 points higher than the average for that country's level of economic development (per capita GNP)
                       Under-five deaths per 1000 live births
                        Actual   Expected   Gap

Niger                      320        148   -172
Liberia                    217        114   -103
Mauritania                 202        106    -96
Sierra Leone               284        191    -93
Mali                       217        141    -76
Zambia                     203        127    -76
Malawi                     223        162    -61
Central African Rep.       177        123    -54
Ghana                      170        118    -52
Nigeria                    191        139    -52
Namibia                     79         37    -42
Turkmenistan                89         48    -41
Senegal                    120         83    -37
South Africa                69         32    -37
Bolivia                    114         79    -35
Burkina Faso               175        141    -34
Cameroon                   113         79    -34
Iraq                        71         38    -33
Brazil                      63         31    -32
Yemen                      137        105    -32
Algeria                     68         37    -31

Countries where the percentage of children reaching grade 5 of primary school is more than 20 points lower than the average for that country's level of economic development (per capita GNP)

                           % reaching grade 5
                        Actual   Expected   Gap

Haiti                       12         52   -40
Gabon                       50         87   -37
Dominican Rep.              41         75   -34
Guatemala                   41         75   -34
Afghanistan                 13         46   -33
Guinea                      26         58   -32
Angola                      34         65   -31
Brazil                      56         85   -29
Bhutan                       9         35   -26
Mali                        22         47   -25
Niger                       23         45   -22
Burkina Faso                26         47   -21
Colombia                    59         80   -21
El Salvador                 58         79   -21
Sources: Under-five mortality: UNICEF. Underweight: updated from UNICEF, Child malnutrition: country profiles, 1993. Reaching grade 5: UNICEF calculations from UNESCO data. GNP: World Bank, The World Bank atlas 1995, 1994.

Click here or a full list of national performance gaps - in survival, nutrition, and education.

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