All children have rights, everywhere and at all times. And all children’s rights are equally important and interrelated. The Children’s Rights and Business Principles (the Principles) call on business everywhere to respect and support children’s rights throughout their activities and business relationships, including in the workplace, the marketplace, the community and the environment. The Principles identify a comprehensive range of actions that all business should take to prevent and address any adverse impact on children’s human rights, as well as measures all business is encouraged to take to help advance children’s rights. The Principles aspire to be a key reference point for existing and future voluntary and other initiatives on business and children, and to promote multi-stakeholder collaboration. They are for all business, transnational and other, regardless of their size, sector, location, ownership and structure. The Principles also seek to inform other societal actors, including governments and civil society, in their engagement with business.
As a result of their rapid physical and psychological development, children have survival and development needs that differ from those of adults. Children are particularly vulnerable to violence, exploitation and abuse, especially during emergencies. The impact of climate change and pollution on children can also be more serious and long-lasting than those on adults. At the same time, children make important contributions to their households, communities and societies. Children are key stakeholders of business – as consumers, future employees and business leaders, and as members of the communities and environments in which a business operates. They should be empowered to have a voice in decisions that affect them in line with the principle of child participation as outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Principles are derived from the internationally recognized human rights of children, and do not create new international legal obligations. In particular, they are founded on the rights outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols. The Convention is the most widely ratified human rights treaty: 193 countries are currently States parties (governments that have signed and ratified the Convention). The Principles are also based on the International Labour Organization’s Conventions No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour and No. 138 on the Minimum Age.
The Principles also elaborate on existing standards for business, such as the United Nations Global Compact’s ‘Ten Principles’ and the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights endorsed by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Governments at all levels have the duty to protect, respect and fulfil children’s rights. However, all societal actors, including business, must comply with applicable national law and respect international standards on children’s rights. Responding to the international community’s call on all members of society to join in a global movement that will help build a world fit for children, the Principles seek to elaborate business’s role in respecting and supporting children’s rights.
Nothing in the Principles should be taken to justify application of standards lower than those in force in a particular country or under international law.
The Principles were developed in consultation with children, business, investors, trade unions, national human rights institutions, civil society, governments, academics, United Nations entities, child rights experts and business experts.