Day 3 | 22 September
Building Business Action Fit for Children in East Asia Pacific in the Next Decade
Business is intrinsic to the social and economic fabric of countries in East Asia Pacific, with children impacted one way or another by business activity – as consumers of products and services, through exposure to marketing and advertising, as young workers or child labourers, as the children of workers, as users of digital platforms, or through the environments where they live and play.
In 2012, UNICEF, the United Nations Global Compact and Save the Children developed the Children’s Rights and Business Principles (CRBPs), in consultation with children, businesses, investors, governments, civil society, trade unions, national human rights institutions and United Nations entities. Based on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), the CRBPs take a practical approach to laying out the implications of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) for the business world – business institutions, government policymakers, investors and other business stakeholders – and the relationships between them.
The CRBPs recognize that business respect for children’s rights requires negative impacts to be prevented, mitigated and remediated. Working terms and conditions, safety and health, products and services, marketing and advertising, security, and land acquisition and use are practices affecting children, parents and caregivers, which tell businesses that impacts exist for a wide range of children’s rights, not just child labour. In a region that is home to the biggest supply chains globally, to fast-growing economies with high resource intensity and polluting industries, and to an exponential growth of new technologies and communication platforms, children are faced with multiple challenges posed by the climate crisis, environmental degradation, online violence and rising inequities.
Respect for human rights, including the rights of children, is a condition for true sustainability in East Asia Pacific. It is uncontested that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will not be achieved unless business plays a big role. A foundation of the business contribution to sustainability is ensuring that conduct is not contributing to poor outcomes in the first place. Protecting and respecting children’s rights is particularly significant for sustainable development because this breaks the intergenerational transfer of deprivation and exclusion. There are real gains made when children’s rights are protected and respected, both for children and for society at large.
The business world is making progress on integrating children’s rights, but there’s still a long way to go. In the last 10 years, the general awareness of child labour as an important issue for business as well as government increased in East Asia Pacific, but recognition of business impact on the full spectrum of rights defined in the CRC has been limited. Voluntary action by businesses to assess impact across all aspects of operations, establish saliency, and change practices to address the most challenging issues for children have timidly emerged in the region, integrated into wider action for human rights and sustainability. While investors and financial institutions are paying closer attention to human rights considerations in ESG assessments to inform investment decision-making, progress in the region is slow in including children’s rights considerations. Mandatory human rights due diligence has started to raise interest in countries in East Asia Pacific as the movement towards strengthening legislation by the European Union grows. New policy mechanisms to support outcomes for children in health, nutrition, education, child protection or climate action emerge in countries in the region, making the case for wider policy and practice for children with preventing and mitigating business adverse impact needed.
To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Children’s Rights and Business Principles in East Asia Pacific and reflect upon the next decade ahead, a multi-stakeholder session will bring together experts in the field, businesses, policymakers, civil society and international organizations to discuss how link between children’s rights and sustainability and ways businesses action can be fit for children in the region.
Panelists will reflect on the following questions:
Which are the current greatest challenges faced on the ground by businesses as a result of new unprecedented risks to children in East Asia Pacific?
How have companies been ensuring the respect of children’s rights throughout their activities and business relationships in the region in the last years?
How can children’s rights be more visible in mechanisms and measures supporting or requiring responsible business conduct in the region?
Which could be possible collaborations among the different stakeholders – businesses, governments, civil society – to scaled action that can reduce the depth of challenges faced by children and their families in the region?