Due diligence for multinational companies in the field of environment and human rights - UNICEF

Press release from UNICEF Switzerland and Lichtenstein of 6 October 2020

Corporate responsibility is essential for the respect of children's rights and the development of children.

UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein is therefore in favor of a duty of diligence enshrined in law and the obligation for multinational companies to take responsibility for their actions in the field of the environment and human rights.

The Responsible Multinationals Initiative makes an important contribution to the protection of children around the world. The counter-project would be ineffective in ending child labor.

UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein supports the initiative for responsible multinationals. The reasons :

1. Children all over the world are affected in many ways by the economy. They are the sons and daughters of employees, they are young workers, they live near the operating sites of companies and must be able to use the land or its natural resources. The effects of the economic activity of a multinational on the rights of the child and the living conditions of children are therefore far-reaching.

2. Children are among the most vulnerable groups of the population. That is why they have special rights in matters of survival, development and protection. The responsible multinationals initiative makes it possible to better protect children around the world against the negative effects of the activities of Swiss multinationals.

3. By supporting this initiative, UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein is following a recommendation of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The latter asks Switzerland to "ensure that companies and their subsidiaries (...) can be brought to justice in the event that violations of children's rights and human rights are caused by their activities."

4. Parliament's counter-proposal is insufficient to protect children from the negative effects of the economy. It tackles the exploitation of children at work as an isolated problem, capable of being solved independently of other human rights violations. This approach obscures the fact that child labor is a consequence of other violations of human rights and children's rights. As the Parliament's counter-draft does not take into account the real causes of child labor exploitation, it is insufficient to protect the rights of the child. In addition, the counter-draft does not provide for sanctions for the offending multinationals and therefore has no effect.

5. Among the causes of the exploitation of children at work, we must mention the poverty and precarious working conditions of parents as well as the lack of access of girls and boys to schooling, training and education. health. Child labor will only end when the causes are tackled as a whole. Only a holistic approach like that of the initiative promises to have an effect.

6. The responsible multinationals initiative calls for what is already possible today in other countries. In France, Canada, Great Britain and the Netherlands, injured parties can seek redress in court. And the EU plans to harmonize the rules in this area in 2021 and to introduce civil liability.

7. UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein is mobilizing for the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Our legal framework conditions must guarantee better protection of children in the field of action of Swiss multinationals. For the sake of every child.

Virginie Gastine Menou

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