The private sector refers to the for-profit sector. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) means a company tries in some way to ensure its activities and practices are ethically sound. This might be by exceeding expectations and minimum regulations in the protection and promotion of international human rights, labour and environmental standards.
In relation to child rights, this can mean anything from a child-focused initiative organised by a company to get more local children into education, to retracting a policy which affects the lives of children negatively. For example, the scandal over certain companies encouraging mothers to favour infant formula over breast milk for their babies.
CSR is often patchy or inconsistent, since it is a voluntary initiative for which the real incentive may merely be good publicity. Moreover, many companies fail to engage at all in CSR.
The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has a specific thematic page on how children are influenced by the private sector which can be accessed here.
There is a separate issues factsheet on child labour which can be accessed here.
Issues in respect of child rights and the private sector include, but are not limited to:
- Aggressive advertising of infant milk formula by multinational companies, which undermines breastfeeding, particularly in poorer countries. Read Save the Children UK’s report: “A Weak Formula for Legislation – How loopholes in the law are putting babies at risk” (August 2007)
- Does the private sector have a role in upholding human rights, as well as States? As the private sector assumes a greater role in development, for example in the provision of education and health services, this question has become more urgent. Read “Globalisation and privatisation: The impact on childcare policies and practices”, by Michel Vandenbroeck of Ghent University (January 2006)
- Corporate Social Responsibility – this means companies take more responsibility for their impact on people and the environment, for example not sourcing from supplies that use child labour, or avoiding practices that could worsen conflict. However, there is considerable scepticism about the rationale behind some policies, and their effect. Read:
“Why Corporate Responsibility is Failing Children” (Save the Children, March 2007)
"Corporate Social Responsibility and Children’s Rights in South Asia" (June 2007).
“From Quarry to Graveyard: CSR in the natural stone sector” (India Committee of the Netherlands)
- The powerful role pharmaceutical companies have in providing potentially life-saving drugs, and their testing practices. Read, for example, the claim against Pfizer, accused of testing drugs on poor Nigerian children. Read about patenting laws, and how companies control pricing to maximise profit, even though this puts vital (especially AIDS) drugs out of reach for millions of children
- Many companies and individuals do have a strong social conscience and help by, for example, building schools, donating money or providing services free of charge
The Private Sector and the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Article 3 of the CRC relates to the best interests of the child and says that in both public and private sectors, the best interests of the child should be the primary consideration. There is also article 32 on child labour.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child devoted its 2002 day of general discussion (in September 2002) to the theme of "The Private Sector as Service Provider and its Role in Implementing Child Rights." Present at the day of general discussion were representatives of United Nations organs, bodies and specialised agencies, as well as other competent bodies, including non-governmental organisations, research and academic organisations and individual experts, to contribute to the discussion.
For more information, read:
The documents submitted for the day of general discussion.
Read about the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.
Read a report for the Special Representative on state responsibilities to regulate corporate activities under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Previous Publication (general) items
- 16/12/2007: UK: Informed Choice? Armed forces recruitment practice
- 14/12/2007: EMERGENCIES: World Disasters Report 2007 - Focus on discrimination
- 14/12/2007: AUSTRIA: Report by the Commissioner for Human Rights for the Council of Europe
- 14/12/2007: YÉMEN: Un tiers des enfants âgés entre deux et cinq ans souffrent d’un retard de croissance
- 14/12/2007: EURONET Press Release on Reform Treaty
Organisation Contact Details:
Child Rights International Network
2 Pontypool Place
Tel: +44 (0)207 401 2257
Last updated 10/04/2008 08:02:29