UNICEF's overall vision in relation to children's rights and the mining sector is an industry that recognizes children as distinct stakeholders and which takes steps to identify its impact on children. It is an industry that uses its presence in the community including its wider socio economic impacts as a positive force for children's development. Finally, it is an industry that uses its position to advocate for the rights of the children.
In 2014, UNICEF commissioned action research with mining as well as oil and gas companies to identify and analyse the sector's impact on children's rights and better understand how companies are currently managing these impacts. In consultation with multiple companies, this work resulted in the UNICEF report Children's Rights and the Mining Sector [PDF] and the UNICEF Oil and Gas Scoping Paper [PDF].
A key finding from the research is that children are more vulnerable to the impacts of extractive projects than adults, particularly between birth and 5 years when experiencing formative physical development. These impacts occur in relation to resettlement, in-migration, environment, safety and security among other issues.
Companies in the extractive sector almost uniformly agree that children are vulnerable stakeholders within the community. But they often encounter challenges in understanding how children could be affected directly, rather than only as a result of mining impacts on adult family members or the broader community. Failing to consider children as distinctive stakeholders means that companies may not identify their specific impacts on children. This leads to critical gaps in most standard approaches to socio, environmental and human rights due diligence and management systems.
In 2017, UNICEF released practical guidance for mining companies that want to take concrete steps in addressing their potential positive or negative child rights impacts. UNICEF's Child Rights and Mining Toolkit [PDF] is the result of this work.