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UN Global Compact launches child rights guidelines for the business world

Aug 02, 2012

On August 1st, 2012 in a unique initiative, the UN Global Compact, UNICEF and Save the Children released their report ‘Children’s Rights and Business Principles’ to rope in businesses to eliminate abuse of child rights.

Child rights has been a major source of concern for governments and NGOs all over the globe now. Increasing incidents of child rights abuses, like the instances of child soldiers of Uganda and the football-making factories that employ children; such cases prompted the UN to muster all its resources to try and make a difference. Keeping this in mind, New Delhi witnessed a much-needed collaboration to further the fight for the rights of the little citizens of the world. The business community joined hands with the NGOs and government to release of the report ‘Children’s Rights and Business Principles’. The report is a collaboration between UNICEF, The UN Global Compact and Save the Children.

Eija Hietavuo, Corporate Alliance Specialist, UNICEF Geneva, explained the aims and objectives of the document calling it “a unique model of guidance for corporates.” The report as explained by her, is divided under three umbrellas: Workplace, Marketplace and the Community. The three sections contain within them the ten principles that cover all aspects of child right violations that are connected to the corporate sector. From child labour, protection and safety of children, responsible marketing services, to reinforcing community and government efforts to protect child rights.

The event was well-attended, and all sectors were well represented. The opening session saw Sudhir Vasudeva, President Global Compact Network India, and CMD, ONGC representing the business community. Vasudeva lauded the guidelines, saying such initiatives, ‘ …will let businesses assume a larger role in proactive change by addressing issues in a larger focussed manner.’ Vasudeva, articulated his own ten points for businesses to be responsible; his points covered structured action, creation of implementation templates for businesses to follow and increased allocation for causes. He gave ONGC’s example as having pumped around 500 crores into its CSR activities.

"Businesses need to invest in society today, especially in children; for the children of today are tomorrow's customers and investors" said James Gitau, Officer in Charge, UNICEF, India Country Office

To give the government’s side of things; Dr Shantha Sinha, Chairperson, National Commission on protection of Child Rights was present on the occasion. Dr. Sinha made it very clear  in her passionate speech, businesses need to do more for the cause of child rights. She asked corporates to ‘adhere to the laws of the land’ and talked of an accountability system being introduced to rein in erring corporates. She and Dr. Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission both agreed on the need of a social audit of sorts which will be an audit done by independent organisations. Hameed took the model further and suggested “creation of an index to assess the child-friendliness of corporate sectors and have a hall of fame and shame depending on the results.”

Such guidelines are especially important, in the view that business is getting serious about contributing their bit to the development of a society that respects human rights. The statistics tell a dire tale, in June 2012, the ILO estimated that 21 million people had experienced forced labour over a 10-year period and 5.5 million of these had been children. (linkg:  ). Business supply chains aren’t clean either, in India hundreds of children were found to be working gruelling 14 hours a week in the cotton industry (give OWSA link) and 18 countries were found to produce gold with child labour exposing them to harmful toxins like mercury. The report in the end aims at forming effective alliances between governments, corporates and NGOs to make the world a better place for children. 

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