(Texte disponible uniquement en anglais)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have gathered here today inspired by a shared belief and a commitment to make the rights of the child a reality in a rapidly changing world. The world is facing a deep economic, financial and social crisis. Some countries are more vulnerable than others and worries for the future exist everywhere. Children and women are often the first victims of this situation.
We are on the eve of an important Global Leaders' Summit, where many stakeholders will gather to further define the concept of corporate sustainability.
I am delighted to see that my country, Belgium, is a frontrunner in mobilising the business community on children's rights. There is a wide range of actions that can be taken to promote respect and support for children's rights and to advance responsible business practices. With the post-2015 global development agenda in mind, this is even more important.
I recognise the key role played by the Belgian Global Compact Network. This network has become one of the most dynamic national networks worldwide on children's rights and business principles. I congratulate them for that. And I also congratulate UNICEF for the wonderful work they do on a daily basis for children worldwide.
Children's rights are everyone's business. This global concern requires a universal and inclusive approach in which the business community must clearly play a part.
The Children's Rights and Business Principles are a very concrete and practical result of a consultative process led by UNICEF, the UN Global Compact, and Save the Children. They build on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. They are also aligned with international labour standards. This is the first set of principles to offer companies guidance on the full range of actions they can take to promote children's rights. They apply to business in the workplace, the marketplace, the community and the environment.
I am glad to see that an increasing number of companies have joined the public sector and civil society in their efforts to implement a framework for responsible business practices that will impact directly on the welfare of children globally.
Big or small, all enterprises have a responsibility as part of a global system of exchange of goods and services. Whether it is within the production, supply or consumption chain, the promotion of human rights remains an imperative. Business can contribute positively to ensuring respect for the right of every child to good health, education and protection in society. It is important for everyone to be able to develop his or her potential. At the same time, this will create a favourable environment for entrepreneurs. It is a win-win situation. Social investment will contribute to the redistribution of wealth, and will, in the end, have a structural impact on the region as a whole. Furthermore, it allows the corporate sector to do business in a sustainable way.
These 10 Principles give companies guidance to help them maximize the positive impact and minimize the negative ramifications that their operations, products, and marketing strategies may have on children. They provide opportunities for companies to show their commitment - to work to promote and respect children's rights on a local level or in their global supply chain. On the supply side, companies must be responsible for setting up mechanisms to ensure that the production process does not infringe upon children's human rights. The Children's Rights and Business Principles are conceived to help the private sector to develop and implement such mechanisms. These principles are also a way to prevent abuses on the consumer side. After all, children are not only potential victims of child labour. They are also consumers, whose rights should be respected. In a world where instant and permanent communication has become a reality, teenagers, in particular, not only benefit from the new technologies, but can easily become victims of abuse. Another example is the food industry, which should take children's health into account when developing its marketing policies.
Without the cooperation of the private sector, it would be difficult or even impossible to have any impact here.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is true that the business leaders who are present this evening, and who are attending the Summit, are already convinced of the need to advance responsible business practices based on the Global Compact. What is important NOW is to convince those business leaders who are absent today to join forces with them. Only then will we be successful in our endeavours.
I trust that your presence here tonight and at the leaders' Summit will show to the world the importance of the issue at stake and our common will to act. I thank all of you for being here, and I wish you all the greatest success in launching concrete initiatives within your companies, or within your countries, to make further progress in the implementation of the Principles.
I thank you.