On the occasion of the Global Child Forum in Southeast Asia, Global Child Forum’s Managing Director, Åse Bäckström, shares with Petrina Anthony, from Malaysia Tatler, about the movement that respects children’s rights. This article has been adapted from a previously published article in their July 2016 issue.
“Children are our future and we see their growth as a pathway to making the world a better place,” says Åse Bäckström. To this end, the Global Child Forum, an organisation initiated by the Swedish Royal Family, continuously organises global and regional forums for business to discuss prospects to create attention for the benefit of children.
In the organisation’s first visit to Southeast Asia, their goal is to build and encourage partnerships from various sectors of society. Since 2009, Global Child Forum has conducted eight Forums, with the ASEAN Forum being the third outside of Sweden, following the Middle East and Northern Africa in 2014 and Southern Africa in 2015. The main purpose of the Forums are to encourage for companies to implement child-friendly policies, address to children’s rights and advocate change. In Malaysia, child labour is still an issue and special attention is needed for children to have access to education and healthcare.
Managing Director, Åse Bäckström, has previously served as the head of risk and sustainability for KPMG Sweden before assuming her current position, beginning February last year. She believes that “business can help achieve long-term and sustainable development and have the obligation to respect human rights, especially that of children.”
As Bäckström explains, corporate engagement in children’s rights is vital to overcoming the risks they face. By acknowledging them as important stakeholders, companies are able to open their mind, and contribute to the prospect of humankind. She refers to key findings from a Global Child Forum Regional Benchmark Study show that 70% of companies across Southeast Asia already have programs related to children’s rights with 43% donating to charities. (Click here to read the study.)
Bäckström points to a few ways companies can assist such as by providing ways for migrant employees and their families to stay together, ensuring children’s safety during travels, ensuring access to a clean environment and healthy food products and by promoting safer access to the internet and communication technology.
Bäckström, being a mother herself, keeps children’s issues close to her heart and truly understands the African saying “it takes a village to raise a child,” — social responsibility is shared by all to take care of children’s wellbeing. “The opportunities are there for the business sector and social responsibility is evolving with powerful cross-sector initiatives taking root,” she added.
Bäckström mentioned that it is important for us to be sensitive to children’s needs. The first necessity is for free school education, at a minimum, so that children can better their future and their lives. If a child must work, it should be in accordance with national labour laws so that children are not be exploited, and able to continue with their schooling. The business sector should refer to the Children’s Rights and Business Principles on what actions they can take to respect and support children’s rights.
Indeed, the Global Child Forum 2016 has opened the mind and perspective of industries in bringing support and appreciation for children. The overwhelming response from the collective consensus offered also tally with respective partners and support their reasons to aid the cause.
Global Child Forum is an international independent platform for research, dialogue, information and action on children’s rights, initiated by Their Majesties King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden. Global Child Forum discusses the most pressing issues facing children and showcases what pioneering companies are doing to ensure that children’s rights are protected in all their business dealings.
As a global multi-stakeholder platform, the Global Child Forum works for informed dialogue and thought leadership on how to advance children’s rights in support of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Global Child Forum aims to gather leaders from business, governments, academia and civil society in a joint effort to implement children’s rights.