Children under the age of 18 years-old comprise almost a third of the global population, however they are often left unconsidered in the creation of business practices and corporate social responsibility. Nonetheless rights of millions of children across the globe are violated on a daily basis, most of which have a direct correlation to business practices.
The first comprehensive set of principles to guide companies on the full range of actions they can take in the workplace, marketplace and community to respect and support children’s rights was released recently. The Children’s Rights and Business Principles was developed by UNICEF, the UN Global Compact and Save the Children, and is the first comprehensive set of principles to guide companies on the full range of actions they can take in the workplace, marketplace and community to respect and support the rights of children. The Principles recognize existing international human rights law, specifically the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the articles of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on the worst forms of child labor.
The partners behind the Principles believe that companies have failed to recognize the benefits of taking a more proactive approach and that by “considering how products and services can better meet children’s needs can also be a source of innovation and create new markets. Finally, working for children helps build strong, well-educated communities that are vital to a stable, inclusive and sustainable business environment.”
The Principles, were developed in consultation with children, as well as business, investors, trade unions, national human rights institutions, civil society, governments, and academics. Therefore the Principles were created to enhance and strengthen existing standards, initiatives and best practices related to business and children. Therefore the Principles seek to fill gaps to in the current practices and provide a coherent vision for business to maximize the positive impacts and minimize negative impacts on children. The main objective of the Principles is to provide a clear understanding of the opportunities business have regarding children; who are often overlooked as stakeholders of business.
The issue of protecting the rights of children across the globe goes much deeper than just that of putting an end to the use of child labor and thankfully the Principles outline this. In the 10 Principles, there is a specific call to action for business to ensure that all of their products and services are safe, to ensure that future children’s rights are ensured and advanced in relation to the environment and land acquisition, and that marketing and advertising seek to protect and not exploit the right of the child. Additionally the Principles state that businesses should pay particular attention to safeguarding children in emergency situations, as they are at increased risk of abuse, including sexual, and exploitation.
While the Principles are a significant development in the protection and safeguarding of children’s rights, they will not be able to make a sustainable impact alone. In order for the Principles to be effective and enhance existing laws and programs, local communities, governments, international community and the media will all have to play a role in the protection of children’s rights. Thus scrutiny of corporate practice, must be put into place with political and legal reforms, which must be enforced at all levels, if we are to see true and sustainable change and ensure all children their basic rights.