Global Child Forum Turns 10!

For a decade, Global Child Forum has been working to promote children’s rights – focusing primarily on the business sector to drive this change. To mark this anniversary, the organization is looking back at how the situation for children’s rights in business has transformed, and flagging new emerging issues that require urgent attention.

“The Queen and I have shared a common dream for a while. To create a forum for the situation of children and young people in the world…with the purpose of inspiring and supporting work around the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We hope that it might become as famous as the Davos Forum, but with the light directed at the situation of children and young people.”

– King Carl XVI Gustav, The King’s Holiday Speech, December 2009

“DIRECTING THE LIGHT”

This year marks Global Child Forum’s 10-year anniversary – and while the organization’s name has changed from World Child and Youth Forum to Global Child Forum – our vision, and that of our founders’, H.M. King Carl XVI Gustav and H.M. Queen Silvia, has not. We remain steadfast in our support for the world’s children and helping them live healthy, happy, just and prosperous lives.

We have accomplished much in these past ten years — which is only a blink of an eye in the vast timeline of history; but ten years is the time in which child burgeons into a teenager, full of dreams, hopes and aspirations. And so too has been our journey – from a fledgling notion of building “…a forum for the situation of children and young people in the world…with the purpose of inspiring and supporting work around the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child”– to a full-fledged organization staffed by talented and dedicated colleagues, with 10 global and regional forums behind us, numerous research reports and tools and a growing group of partners who champion our work.

But most rewarding is to see the transition that has taken place during these past 10 years around children’s rights and business. In 2009, the concept of children’s rights and business raised eyebrows among the business elite and produced a look of confusion prompting one to say, “oh yes, you mean child labour.” When it came to children’s rights, traditionally the domain of civil society and governments, the private sector, for the most part, was unsure how their operations impacted children and what their responsibility was towards society as a whole, and children more specifically. The issue of child labour was understood and documented, but the multitude of other ways that business could positively and negatively impact business was less understood.

The release of the Children’s Rights and Business Principles in 2012 launched a shift in the way that business’ role vis-à-vis children was perceived. Trailblazing companies embarked on a journey that led to fundamental changes in the way they approached key children’s rights issues — beyond child labour. And we’re now starting to see things that would have been inconceivable a decade ago:

  • We are seeing business take children’s views on board, informing their operations;
  • We are seeing companies adopt codes of conduct that work to abolish child labour and put in place remedial programs if child labour is detected;
  • We are seeing companies assess how their core competencies could best be put to use in ensuring that children today have opportunities for a prosperous future – whether it be through girl empowerment programs, health initiatives, training programs etc.
  • We are seeing companies collaborate with children’s rights organizations and other partners to advance on issues, together.

 

At the same time, the world has become a better place for children:

  • 280 million children, or 1 in 8, are dramatically better off today than in year 2000;
  • Since 2000, circumstances for children have improved in 173 out of 176 countries;
  • 40% drop in child labor (94 million fewer children in child labor now than in 2000).

    (statistics from Save the Children, Global Childhood Report, 2019)

PLEDGING TO TAKE ACTION

As with most feel-good statistics, they bolster us for only a moment, until they reveal what more needs to be done.

Launched at the Global Child Forum 2018, the Global Child Forum Pledge for Children’s Rights and Business, issued an urgent call to business to do more – to create tangible initiatives and forge partnerships which advance children’s rights in a business’s operations, supply chains and in the communities in which they operate. Our goal was to create movement – to deliver actionable initiatives that contribute to advancing children’s rights. Based on our research, we identified five actionable commitments for companies to undertake and to-date, have amassed a group of companies and organizations dedicated to identifying ways in which they can make an impact.

TODAY’S WORLD

Today’s world is very different than just a mere 10 years ago: The digital age has ushered in many advances and opportunities for children and youth, and their growing online presence have left them vulnerable in ways that were unimaginable a decade ago. The refugee crisis has sent economic, social and political ripples throughout the Middle East, Europe and beyond—leaving many children rootless at a critical time in their lives. Climate change continues unabated and we are witnessing environmental consequences on children’s health which is now undermining many of the gains we have made in child survival and development.

The SDGs, launched in 2015, provided a rallying cry and have galvanized the world toward working on some of the most pressing challenges – many of which impact children either directly or indirectly. They represent a transformative agenda for change but are we living up to the promises they set out?

At the same time, we are seeing and hearing youth in ways that were unseen and unheard of a decade ago. This young generation is speaking out, marching across the globe for issues that they feel strongly about, taking their message to world leaders, and this should challenge business to act.

Are we listening?
At Global Child Forum we are.

FOSTERING LEARNING, PROVOKING CONVERSATIONS

Global Child Forum’s vision is that every part of society shall play its part in the protection of and support of children’s rights. We do this with a particular emphasis on the role that business has to drive social, economic and environmental action. One key element of our approach is our forums on business and children’s rights. Over the past 10 years we have held forums in the Middle East, Southern Africa, Southeast Asia, South America, and in Stockholm.

These multi-stakeholder platforms foster an exchange of learning and provoke conversations that lead to solutions for some of the most pressing challenges facing the world’s 1.9 billion children. Each forum has resulted in reports and videos which gather these diverse points-of-view and highlight key take-aways.

As one participant at the Global Child Forum in 2018 said, “When you start making the link between business and children’s rights, you can’t stop.”

But the work doesn’t stop there.

KNOWLEDGE IGNITES ACTION

We know that knowledge ignites action and that’s why, over the past 10 years, we have based our work in research. We pioneered, and have continued to refine, our benchmarking methodology allowing us to capture a picture of how business responds to the challenges and opportunities in children’s rights. We have produced 11 benchmark reports on the corporate sector and children’s rights and now, to mark our 10-year anniversary, we are undertaking one of our most ambitious project to-date – a global benchmark of nearly 1,000 companies, using 20 indicators. The report will be launched before the end of this year. Only through data collection and analysis can we identify areas in need of improvement – both regionally and sectorally – as well as identify leaders to watch and learn from.

To help spread our know-how, we have launched a robust, searchable online Knowledge Center, housing all of our reports, case studies, guides, videos, and think pieces.

Businesses, investors and organization alike need to understand how their actions impact children rights across the globe. One of our major accomplishments from the past decade is the launch of the Children’s’ Rights and Business Atlas, developed with UNICEF. The Atlas is the first comprehensive resource, based on data, to guide companies in assessing risks to children within their industry sectors and regions of operations.

BECAUSE WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF CHILD RIGHTS..?

While we can rejoice in the progress we’re seeing for children, we are also alarmed by the litany of ills that face our young people – sexual violence, hazardous work, poor quality educational opportunities, health issues, poverty, lack of decent work, discrimination, migration. The list of issues easily spills off the tongues of those of us who work in this field. But so do words such as “collaboration”, “partnerships”, “rights-based programmes for children”, “global goals”, “supply chain audits”, “smarter solutions”. At the heart of all of these verbal tags, are the real stories of children – some of which we told in our short film produced in 2018: Four Countries. Four stories. The film tells the story of four families, all of whom have been positively impacted by the business initiatives that address their key challenges.

While research and tools, forums and meetings are the fodder for inspiration, what leads to true change are the ideas, initiatives and actions that take root when leaders and learners come together to challenge one another – and challenge themselves to build a better world than the one we have today.

Global Child Forum is gratified that during the past ten years we have provided fertile ground for real ideas to take root — ideas which provide children with the opportunities to reach their full potential. In the years to come, we will continue to work towards our vision, encouraging business to prioritize children in their operations and communities, and give children a chance to thrive and dream.

As HRH Crown Princess Victoria said at the Global Child Forum in 2018, ““Because what is the purpose of children’s rights, if not this? A child being able to dream and to pursue that dream.”

Quotes and photos from the past 10 years

“The Queen and I have shared a common dream for a while. To create a forum for the situation of children and young people in the world…with the purpose of inspiring and supporting work around the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We hope that it might become as famous as the Davos Forum, but with the light directed at the situation of children and young people.”

– King Carl XVI Gustav, The King’s Holiday Speech, December 2009

“By pooling our efforts, we have a much better chance of improving the lives of children affected by crisis. This could also fulfill the aspirations of so many people who work in the private sector, to make the world a better place, as well, as to help their companies prosper.”

– Sir John Holmes, Chair International Rescue Committee, UK at the Global Child Forum, 2015

“It’s all about a sustainable, systemic management approach.  It starts with three basic pillars: trust, transparency and competence.”

– Karl-Henrik Sundström, CEO Stora Enso, at the Global Child Forum, Stockholm, 2015

“When we invest in children’s rights, we’re also investing in workforces and innovators who will drive our countries’ business and economies forward.”

– Yoka Brandt, Deputy Exectuive Director, UNICEF, at the Global Child Forum, Stockholm 2015

“We see partnerships with the private sector not just as a source of financing but as a source of innovation, creating open platforms, using new technologies, using innovation, investing in skills for young people.”

– Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO, at the Global Child Forum, Stockholm, 2015

“We are living in a time of rising insecurity. A time where business leaders have unprecedented opportunity – and even responsibility – to build a more inclusive and safe society for our children.”

– H.M Queen Silvia at the Global Child Forum in South America, 2017

“A corporation’s role in society is more than creating short-term profits for shareholders. It’s not a decision between doing good or making profits. You do good and make profits.”

– Per Heggenes, CEO, IKEA Foundation, at the Global Child Forum in South America, 2017

“A CEO thinks on multiple levels – the share price, the returns, the community, employees. But who makes  that happen? It’s our people, who care about their workplace and care about the kids in the larger world.”

– Paul Sistare, Founder and Chairman, Atlantica Hotel International, at the Global Child Forum in South America, 2017

“I am often asked why we should listen to children. And there is only one answer to that question: Why not?”

– Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, Founder, Missing Chapter Foundation, at the Global Child Forum, Stockholm, 2018

“It’s part of business to understand your supply chain, embrace problems and start solving them.”

– Paul Schoenmakers, Head of Impact, Tony’s Chocolonely, at the Global Child Forum, Stockholm, 2018

“As a bank, when economies grow, the business grows. Our main motivator is inclusive societies and economic opportunity for  girls and young women.”

– Julie Wallace, Global Head, Community Engagement, Standard Chartered Bank, at the Global Child Forum, Stockholm, 2018

It takes time to define the contribution the private sector can make in a given context. A one model fits all kind of approach doesn’t work.”

– Andres Franco, UNICEF, at the Global Child Forum, Stockholm, 2018

“These children are digital natives. We need to share their experiences. Considerations of their perspectives is vital for  business decisions in the digital era.”

– Bing Wan, Siemens, Asia and Australia, at the Global Child Forum, Stockholm, 2018

“In order to solve a problem like child labour in a supply chain, companies are required to  be brave and transparent.”

– Virginie Mahin, Modelez International, at the Global Child Forum, Stockholm, 2018

It’s not enough to walk up to the imaginary fence of compliance; you have to go beyond it. Compliance doesn’t futureproof your business. It lulls you into a sense of false security.”

– Simon Lord, Chief Sustainability Officer, Sime Darby Plantation Berhad, at the Global Child Forum, Stockholm, 2018

Speaking about investing in girls, “You need to meet girls where they are, If they’re not in formal education, you leave out a particularly vulnerable group. This is where innovation comes in.”

– Natalie Au, Global Gender Director, Girl Effect

“Because what is the purpose of children’s rights, if not this? A child being able to dream and to pursue that dream.”

– HRH Crown Princess Victoria, at the Global Child Forum, Stockholm, 2018

“I have seen children’s eyes light up with hope as they are empowered to shape their own lives.”

– HRH Princess Sofia at the Global Child Forum in South Africa, 2015

 

“We have a dream that there will be joint efforts (among all stakeholders)…to promote and fulfill children’s rights.”

Ruth Kesia, a youth worker and member of the Children’s Advisory Committee, who spoke at the Global Child Forum in Stockholm 2018

“We often treat issues of corporate responsibility as a problem of awareness: if business know how how important children are, they take action…How do we move from principles, to which we can easily commit, to practical progress commensurate with the scale of the problems?”

– Brian Ganson, Africa Centre for Dispute Settlement at University of Stelenbosch Business School

“It is not as simple as children working because they are starving.  It is often about other economic drivers,. Poverty alleviation alone will not eliminate child labour.”

– Ines Kaempfer, CCR CSR, at the Global Child Forum, Stockholm, 2018

On the value of child participation in business decisions: “They give us insight, but that’s not why we were originally doing it. That’s a spillover, and we shouldn’t be shy talking about this. They’re future customers and stakeholders, so there’s a real business meaning Otherwise, it would not be sustainable.”

– Johan Dennelind, CEO, Telia Company at the Global Child Forum 2018

On creating a better future for refuge children: “Children and adolescents are extremely dynamic and resourceful. With a passion for achieving a better future for themselves and their families, young people eare often the first to grasp opportunities and can be powerful agents for positive change within their communities.”

– Carol Batchelor, UNHCR speaking at the Global Child Forum 2015 in Stockholm

“Children are the life of our societies. And as the leaders of today, we must work together to give a brighter future of our leaders of tomorrow.“

– Seokpil Kim, Samsung, speaking at the Global Child Forum 2015 in Stockholm

Author

Linda Lodding

Head of Communications
Global Child Forum

As the Head of Communications, Linda is responsible for bringing our work, and our message, to our stakeholders. She has long career in communications both in the private and public sector working for UN-affiliated organisations such as The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation. Her public sector work is augmented by assignments in advertising, internet consulting and brand development. She holds an undergraduate degree from Barnard College, Columbia University and an MBA from the Stern School of Business, New York University. Linda joined Global Child Forum in 2015.