UNICEF's corporate partnerships

UNICEF co-hosts consultations on first-ever global standards for child-friendly businesses

Children’s Rights and Business Principles drafted

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© UNICEF/INDA2010-00536/Halle'n
A young girl inside a steel-polishing workshop in Neeta Nagar, a major slum area in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, India. An initiative supported by UNICEF partner IKEA has drawn up a 10-point Child-Friendly Agenda for the area.

By Amy Bennett

NEW YORK, USA, 7 June 2011 – Business leaders and civil society representatives met in London and Delhi in May for consultations on setting the first-ever global standards for child-friendly business practices. A set of Children’s Rights and Business Principles (CRBP) will be launched in November based on these and other consultations, which are giving stakeholders an active role in shaping and developing the guidelines.

UNICEF, the UN Global Compact and Save the Children have organized the on-going discussions.

While the business and human rights agenda has evolved significantly in recent years, it does not yet fully address child rights. The CRBP will be the first comprehensive set of principles to guide companies on the wide range of actions they can take in the workplace, marketplace and community to respect and support children’s rights.

‘Why are children special?’

The main issue that emerged from the London and Delhi consultations was how to make the principles a reality.

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© UNICEF/2011/Frankoul
Business and civil society representatives met in Delhi, India on 20 May to discuss incorporating child rights into global business practices.

“It’s important that this be not just a piece of paper but something that can really make a better life for the world’s children,” said UNICEF UK Executive Director David Bull.

UNICEF India Deputy Representative David McLoughlin set the scene for the discussions in Delhi on 20 May by posing a question that, he said, the business community should ask: “Why are children special?” He went on to outline how children may be more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and even environmental threats than adults – and why they require greater protection.

“Children are not always visible in society and may not have the opportunity to participate” in decisions that affect them, said Mr. McLoughlin.

“At IKEA, the home is the most important place in the world, and children are the most important people in the world,” added the IKEA Foundation’s Programme Leader for South Asia, Vandana Verma, at the start of her presentation on implementing corporate practices that take child rights into account.

Making the case for child rights

The Delhi meeting also included representatives from Cisco Systems, Novartis India, TATA Consulting and other companies, as well as non-governmental organizations such as CARE India, Child Rights and You, and the World Alliance for Youth Empowerment. The consultation was hosted by Petronet.

Participants agreed unanimously that the proposed CRBP draft was acceptable in principle.

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© UNICEF/2011/Frankoul
In Delhi, India, participants discuss draft Children's Rights and Business Principles at a consultation co-hosted by UNICEF, the UN Global Compact and Save the Children.

“We look forward to seeing clarifications to the draft principles to make sure they are not open to interpretation,” said the consultation chair, Merine John, Chief Manager and Corporate Social Responsibility Specialist for ACC Ltd. “We now have a common understanding on the range of ways in which business operations intersect with children’s rights.”

Cisco’s Director for Inclusive Growth, Ajay Krishnan, noted: “I see a clear-cut business case for child rights in terms of sustainability, market operations, risk mitigation and responsible investment.”

The consultation in London, held at the UNICEF UK offices on 5 May, included 40 leading companies from the European corporate sector. Former British High Commissioner to South Africa Lord Paul Boateng chaired the discussion.

Join the conversation

Both of the recent CRBP consultations featured lively, constructive exchanges, according to participants. 

“There was a lot of interesting discussion on things like how do you deal with companies being diverse in size and scope, how do you get a broad enough set of principles,” said Mr. Bull of UNICEF UK. “What was unresolved was the implementation. Should there be a sign-up process, a way in which companies can buy in? And how can they be accountable?”

For anyone who is unable to join the discussion about these and other questions at an in-person consultation, an online portal  is available, hosted by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre. Interested parties from around the world can help shape the CRBP through the portal until 15 July.


 

 

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