0551 GMT March 22, 2019
It may seem as if achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, and its target of ending all violence against children, depends mostly on action from governments and civil society. But we also need leadership from the business community to achieve a world where every child is free from violence, abuse, trafficking and torture.
Companies in all sectors, and of all sizes, have a powerful impact on children. Respect for the dignity of every person is at the core of sustainable development. It is also one of the keys to ensuring a socially sustainable globalization, from which business stands to be a major beneficiary, Ipsnews reported.
As a starting point, any company serious about addressing violence against children should adopt a ‘respect and support’ approach, as prescribed by the Children’s Rights and Business Principles.
Developed by UNICEF, the UN Global Compact, and Save the Children, these Principles call on companies to prevent harm against children and to pro-actively safeguard children’s interests. They build on existing international standards for responsible business, such as the UN Global Compact Ten Principles and the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
By integrating respect and support for children’s rights into their core strategies and operations, a company can strengthen its reputation, improve risk management and secure its social license to operate. Creating a safer world for children also helps build strong, well-educated communities — a vital precondition for long-term, stable and sustainable business environments.
Without a principled approach to these issues, companies risk advancing one objective while undermining progress in other related areas. Looking more specifically at ending violence against children, allow me to outline some key areas where the principles and frameworks I have just mentioned can help companies have an enormous impact:
The first is child labor. Companies that contribute to ending child labor — in all their business activities and along all their supply chains — will go a long way to rooting out the circumstances that enable violence against children to persist.
Companies should also take steps to prevent, identify and mitigate harm to young workers. They must be protected from hazardous work, and companies must do all they can to prevent all forms of workplace violence — including physical and mental punishment, bullying and sexual abuse.
Beyond child labor, a zero tolerance policy for violence, exploitation and abuse should apply across all business activities — even those conducted away from business facilities.
Companies should take particular care in respecting children’s rights in emergency settings, where the risks of violence against children are even more acute.
Children are among the most vulnerable in times of humanitarian crises, especially children with disabilities, displaced or migrant children, children who are separated from family and unaccompanied, and indigenous children.
Girls often face uniquely daunting challenges reflecting the pervasive gender inequalities the SDGs are also designed to tackle.
There is a strong business case for taking great care to respect and support childrens’ rights in emergency settings. Among the many possible dividends, companies that respect and support the rights of children in emergencies can reduce operational risks, alleviate human suffering, develop tomorrow’s talent pool, invest in a more sustainable future, and identify new market opportunities and innovations.
Across all these areas, business action should involve implementing due diligence tools, including risk identification, impact assessments, management measures, reporting mechanisms, grievance procedures and other stakeholder engagement processes.
Taking action to end violence against children is simply the right thing to do. But respecting and supporting the rights of children can also create tremendous opportunities for innovative businesses.
The annual Global Opportunities Report created by DNV and the UN Global Compact noted this year that there are significant untapped business potential relating to reducing global inequalities.
In short, a solid foundation exists today for us to come together and take action to make the world a safe place for all children, everywhere, by 2030. Companies who take this seriously can have a tremendous impact while also achieving great business success. I look forward to hearing more from you about the ways you are making a difference in your own companies.
Amina J. Mohammed is UN deputy secretary general*.