The Convention on the Rights of the Child and business

Boy presenting
© UNICEF/NYHQ2002-0123/Markisz

All children have rights, everywhere and at all times. All children's rights are equally important and interrelated. The UN Convention on the rights of the child (CRC) came into force in 1990 and articulates the basic, non-negotiable human rights that all children have. It is the most widely ratified human rights instrument in the world and is a core human rights treaty within the international human rights system. It recognises children as all those under 18 and represents a strong consensus and a shared agenda internationally on children's rights. Different States of course have different cultures, and legal, political and regulatory systems and States are given broad scope in terms of how they go about implementing the CRC domestically. However, the provisions of the CRC have been accepted by nearly all States, not just as aspirations, but as legally binding commitments for which they are held accountable.

Business policy and action can have a very significant impact - both positive and negative - on children's rights whether they are acting alone, through business partners or in concert with government agencies. This impact can be for example, through: 

  • the use of child labour whether directly or within supply chains; 
  • making sure that the rights of working children are respected; 
  • ensuring parents have good working conditions and benefits so they can properly care for their children; 
  • respecting the rights of children, particularly indigenous children, who are being compelled to relocate following a land acquisition for business purposes; 
  • the use of aggressive marketing which exploits children's vulnerability; enduring products are safe for children to use;
  • ensuring essential services such as water are provided safely and fairly to children;
  • and taking the specific needs of children into account when planning and implementing environmental and resource strategies.

The CRC can serve as a valuable resource for companies seeking for information beyond the Children's Rights and Business Principles. Notably, the CRC:

  • Is universally supported.
  • Provides a common framework for navigating diverse cultures and legal systems.
  • Fits into the established framework of corporate responsibility to respect all human rights.
  • Offers a vision of the world fit for children that business can support.

The Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Fully revised third edition in PDF format - hard copy can be ordered here). This Handbook provides a record and analysis of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. There are Implementation Checklists for each article. The Handbook includes the two Optional Protocols to the Convention, and their guidelines for reporting.