|UN Global Compact Executive Director Georg Kell speaks at the Children's Rights and Business Principles briefing held at UNICEF House. Beside him is UNICEF Strategic Partnerships Associate Director Sally Burnheim.|
By Amy Bennett
NEW YORK, USA, 7 July 2011 – Government representatives from UN Member States gathered at UNICEF headquarters recently for a briefing and discussion on Children’s Rights and Business Principles (CRBP), the first comprehensive set of global standards for child-friendly business practices.
UNICEF Associate Director of Strategic Partnerships Sally Burnheim greeted a packed briefing room on 24 June to explain the CRBP initiative in broad strokes and to introduce three speakers who gave in-depth presentations on the global context and objectives of the principles. Ms. Burnheim also described the high level of child and adolescent participation that has gone into drafting the principles.
The final set of principles will be launched in November, coinciding with the anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Foundation of child rights
“We want to situate business practices within a child rights framework,” said UNICEF Gender Rights and Civic Engagement Chief Dan Seymour, speaking at the briefing. “The Convention on the Rights of the Child applies to something universal. Every article is pertinent,” he added.
|Panellists from UNICEF, UN Global Compact and Save the Children conduct a briefing on the Children's Rights and Business Principles initiative at UNICEF House on 24 June 2011.|
The CRBP initiative builds on this foundation, taking into account every aspect of child rights. Moving beyond high-profile issues such as child trafficking and child labour, the principles will address children’s issues from the supply chain to the marketplace.
Mr. Seymour outlined the ways in which governments can use CRBP to foster responsible business operations and hold businesses accountable within their countries.
“Where there is good practice, government can share the examples so others can learn,” he said. “We are hoping the principles will be of value to government in encouraging child-focused corporate social responsibility.
Speakers at the briefing also emphasized that the principles are not just a set of rules presented to businesses. Rather, they are being developed in a series of consultations, both online and in-person, around the world.
Facilitated by UNICEF, the UN Global Compact and Save the Children, the consultations take input from CEOs, marketers, corporate social-responsibility leaders, non-governmental organizations and children themselves. The goal is to produce the most comprehensive document possible.
|UNICEF Gender Rights and Civic Engagement Chief Dan Seymour speaks at the Children's Rights and Business Principles briefing, seated beside Francesco Aureli of Save the Children.|
“We want you to know there is a very lively discussion going on out there,” UN Global Compact Executive Director Georg Kell told the government representatives at the briefing. “We request that you support the process at the international and national level. Make a positive contribution. We need to know that what we are doing has your support.”
A youth perspective
Equally important is the participation of children and young people in the CRBP process. Francesco Aureli, Global Campaign Representative at the United Nations for Save the Children International, noted that children have the right to express their views – and to have those views taken seriously.
“Children have a unique perspective on how business affects their lives,” Mr. Aureli said at the briefing. “A key to our strategy is to ensure that children can participate in the long term.”
During a question-and-answer session that followed the speakers’ presentations, audience members raised specific concerns about children’s rights. One question was how children will be able to claim the rights enumerated by CRBP.
“Part of accountability is claiming rights,” said Mr. Seymour. He went on to explain that the CRBP guidelines aim to build children’s capacity to claim their rights, and to advise – if not insist – that business make the effort to listen and be open to what children have to say.
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