Linda Lodding, Global Child Forum’s Head of Communications, sat down with Cajsa Wiking, who took over the reigns as the organization’s new Secretary General this January. Cajsa comes to Global Child Forum with a background in children’s rights and business and talked about her new role, the challenges and opportunities for business to support children’s rights and her thoughts about Global Child Forum’s future.
You’ve just started as Global Child Forum’s new Secretary General. What attracted you to the organization and this role?
What attracted me to Global Child Forum is the organization’s unique platform which brings together business leaders with civil society, academia and governments around children’s rights issues. It’s this special focus on how children’s rights intersect with business, where I see that we can still make a difference. A lot has been done but there is so much more that we can still do.
What do you see are the opportunities and challenges in terms of children’s rights and the role that business can play?
The opportunities when working with children’s rights are enormous. Children can, and do, make an active and important contribution to society, and their power to influence and contribute to society will only grow as they mature. They are the ones who have to solve many of the problems that we’re having today. So investing in working with children, and protecting their rights, is the best long-term investment business can make. But for many businesses, there are also short-term gains as well and understanding how best to balance the value of these investments – to business and to society – is a challenge.
Another challenge is also in dealing with the sheer myriad of issues around children and their rights. There are so many aspects and inter-linking issues to consider. A decade ago the focus was very much on child labour. Today, the issues spill over to much broader categories of concern – product marketing and safety, ending child sexual exploitation or considering how a business’ operations affect the surrounding community. Climate change, for instance, is presenting challenges to how society, and more specifically business, can address the negative repercussions to children. Some of these are new challenges that we couldn’t have anticipated ten years ago.
The whole paradigm has shifted. It’s not just down to government to fix the world’s ills – business need to play an important role.
“Business can’t take on all the world’s problems – but they should understand where they can make the most impact given their sphere of influence.”
What do you see as Global Child Forum’s role in this new paradigm?
Well, in an ideal world an organization such as Global Child Forum wouldn’t have to exist. But, of course, it’s important that we do exist – now, more than ever. For the organization, the challenge will be to stay one step ahead so that we can continue to create the tools, develop research and convene actors on the themes that are relevant to the needs of business. In order to do this we will have to remain flexible, listen to our stakeholders and adjust our direction accordingly.
We also have an important role to play in helping business prioritize what issues are most material to them when it comes to children’s rights. Business can’t take on all the world’s problems – but they should understand where they can make the most impact given their sphere of influence.
Global Child Forum is turning 10 years old this year. So, moving from the public to the personal, when you were 10 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
That’s a long time ago! But I remember very clearly wanting to be a surgeon. While I didn’t pursue medicine as an adult, it’s interesting that in my last position as Executive Director of Operation Smile Sweden, I had the opportunity to witness surgeons who did amazing work repairing cleft palates and helping children lead happier and more productive lives.
But it’s also an interesting question in light of my new role here at Global Child Forum. When I was 10 years old, Sweden was in the midst of a debate around prohibiting the use of corporal punishment against children in the home and school. My father, who worked for the Justice Department at the time, was at the center of the push to reform Sweden’s policy and we had frequent conversations at home about children’s rights. I remember being quite surprised that some adults believed strongly that children should be disciplined by violent means. But it was also the first time that I realized that, even as a child, I had rights.
When you think about your own children, or possible future grandchildren, what sort of world are you hoping that they will inherit?
That’s such a big question. But I’m an idealist. So what I hope for is that in the future we won’t even talk about sustainability; we won’t have to have agendas for sustainability because operating sustainably will be a natural part of business and everything we do. And I do think this is possible. I’m also optimistic that the future generation will approach these issues with determination, tenacity and innovation. We’re seeing the incredible bravery, creativity and determination of this young generation to set the world right — from Malala on education for girls to Sweden’s Greta Thunberg on the climate crisis to last year’s Noble Peace Prize winner, Nadia Murad, who spoke up against sexual violence. I’m incredibly humbled by these young people — but also hopeful when I consider the future that my grandchildren might inherit.
How do you see your role as Secretary General?
I’m honored to be at the helm of an organization that has such an important mission. As Secretary General, it’s my role to execute and expand on the vision that The Royal Family set out in 2009 for Global Child Forum. In this way, I’m responsible for developing the strategic operations that reflect our long-term objectives and priorities. But I also see myself as a facilitator – supporting and developing the organization’s competence and making sure that we have the right resources and partners to deliver on our mission. I also want to ensure that I can help create an atmosphere of growth and innovation when we think around the challenges of how business can support children’s right. It’s an exciting and challenging position and I’m grateful to be supported by a wonderful staff, Board and partners.