(Texte disponible uniquement en anglais)
Vice Prime Minister,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today's Forum launches Children's Rights and Business Principles in Belgium. It is an important benchmark for the promotion and respect of the rights of the child by the business community in our country. And by business community I mean both big companies, and small and medium enterprises. For many years now, Belgium has played a pioneering role in the field of human rights worldwide. I am delighted that this platform for dialogue on the ten universally accepted principles will engage companies on a voluntary basis to include these rights and principles in their strategic planning.
I thank the organisers of this event for having succeeded in bringing together so many of the economic actors in Belgium. As a mother, and as the honorary chair of UNICEF Belgium, I feel strongly about the importance of children in our societies. I am also convinced that the private sector in general, and the corporate sector in particular, can play a crucial role in promoting respect for the rights of every child in its daily life.
The Children's Rights and Business Principles, which are being presented this morning, by UN Global Compact, UNICEF and Save the Children, are extremely valuable. They offer a concrete platform for business leaders to analyse their impact on children, to examine their respect for children's fundamental rights, and to adapt their business processes where necessary. In doing this, businesses give real content to their ambitions and strategies in terms of corporate social responsibility.
The business community has enormous potential to affect children's lives - both positively and negatively. It can make an important contribution towards the realization of the rights of the child. Not only through its own practices and policies, but also by setting a good example. And it can use its influence to promote good practises and change negative attitudes, policies and institutions.
While the culture of corporate responsibility has broadened considerably in recent years, a child rights perspective is still often lacking during discussions on either human rights or doing business. The Children's Rights and Business Principles seek to fill this gap.
There is a moral imperative for business to contribute actively to promote the right of every child to good health, education, protection and participation in society. But the Principles also make sound business sense. They contribute to building healthy societies, where everyone can develop his or her full potential. In so doing they also create a favourable environment for entrepreneurs. Moreover, a good corporate reputation is attractive to consumers, investors, employees, suppliers and other business partners. In other words, such social investment will contribute to the redistribution of wealth. And in the longer term, it will have a structural impact on the region.
By inviting businesses to support these principles, the Children's Rights and Business Principles Initiative provides businesses with an opportunity to become a more beneficial force for children. The Principles will help companies maximize the positive impact and minimize the negative ramifications that their operations, products and marketing practices may have on children.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very happy here today, to see the public and private sectors join hands with representatives of child rights organisations in a shared commitment to work together to make the rights of the child a reality. To make them a reality here in Belgium and worldwide, too. As the Convention on the Rights of the Child states, we should always act in the best interests of the child.
I wish you every success in implementing the Children's Rights and Principles beyond the Forum too today.