Event: children’s rights and business – the role of States

Organized by UNICEF and the ICJ, this side event takes place on Thursday 17 September 2015, from 12:00-14:00, Room XXVII, Palais des Nations, Geneva. 

More than ever before, business enterprises have an impact on children’s lives.

Children are consumers of businesses’ products and services, workers in their factories and fields, family members of their employees,  and residents of the communities  that host their operations.

Some of these interactions can benefit children. Companies have, for instance, created new technologies that enrich children’s education, enhance medical care, and connect families around the world.

Yet at the same time, businesses can also have detrimental impacts.

Companies can make and sell unhealthy and unsafe goods to children, pollute the environments  in which children live and play, and expose them to serious dangers including in the workplace.

As children are still growing and developing, they are especially vulnerable to negative business  impacts  and can be severely  and permanently  affected  by infringements  of their rights.

Child consumers can be more easily convinced to buy and use inappropriate or  unsuitable  products,  and  children  are  much  more  susceptible  than  adults  to  the harmful  physical  effects  of  toxic  chemicals,  manual  labour  and  poor  diets.

Young workers  can  never  fully  make  up  for  time  spent  out  of  education,   and  missed opportunities are rarely restored.

Many  of these  impacts  remain  unnoticed,  and businesses  rarely  involve  or seek  the input  of  children  on  decisions  that  will  profoundly  affect  them.

Children  may  not understand  that  their  rights  are  in  jeopardy,  and,  even  when  they  do,  often  face tremendous  challenges  in making  their voices  heard.

All too frequently,  child victims lack the confidence, resources and legal authority to demand accountability  from those who violate their rights.

For these reasons, it is imperative that governments take action to protect and promote children’s  rights  in  the  context  of  business  operations.

In  February  2013,  the  UN Committee   on  the  Rights  of  the  Child  adopted  General  Comment  16  on  State obligations  regarding  the impact of the business  sector on children’s  rights to assist States  to  ensure  that  businesses   respect  children’s   rights  as  envisioned   in  the Convention  on  the  Rights  of the  Child.

The  ICJ  and  UNICEF,  at the  request  of the Committee,  have  elaborated  a Guide  to offer  to States  practical  examples  and  best practices on how to protect and ensure the realization  of the rights of the child in the context of business operations.