Principle 7 - for deeper understanding

Respect and support children’s rights in relation to the environment and to land acquisition and use

Principle 7 calls upon business to minimize environmental damage that its operations may cause.

The principle also asks business to improve and not impede children’s access to natural resources. In terms of land acquisition, business should undertake meaningful consultations with communities, including indigenous peoples, with an aim to avoid the displacement of communities. Certainly, displacement is sometimes inevitable. When this occurs, businesses should still try to ensure that children’s rights are respected and supported. Finally, Principle 7 calls upon business to seriously consider the issue of greenhouse gasses and its relationship to climate change. By extension of this, business should have remedial measures in place for any potential environmental and health damage that its operations may cause.

One of the rules that all companies should follow before establishing themselves in an area is to “see” if they will not have a negative impact on the lives of people living around the place they have chosen. 16 year-old in Senegal

A World Bank study from 2012 projects a 70% global increase in urban solid waste. Developing countries will face the greatest challenge. There is a projected rise from 1.3 billion tonnes of waste per year today, to 2.2 billion tonnes per year by 2025. This will raise the annual global costs from $205 billion to $375 billion. This is an example of how environmental challenges can and will significantly impact families and children around the world. Indeed, many children already live on garbage dumps and so are heavily impacted by dangerous chemicals found in garbage.

Businesses can profoundly influence and alter this situation. A company can, for example, limit its waste products, thus mitigating its negative effect on the immediate environment. Likewise, business can engage communities, together ensuring that children’s playgrounds are a safe distance from noise and danger, and that appropriate traffic regulations are in place. Evidence shows that the typical illnesses and diseases that claim many children – such as respiratory infections, diarrhoeal diseases, malaria, malnutrition and under-nutrition – are irrevocably linked to the environment, and are likely to increase in number as a direct result of climate change.

Sustainable Access to Safe Drinking Water and Basic Sanitation

Societies can develop in a sustainable way if we help them to provide the basic needs and rights of children. The need for access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation continues to increase, especially in light of water-related impacts of climate change. There has, however, been some progress. According to UNICEF:

  • Over 2 billion people gained access to improved water sources from 1990 to 2010

  • The proportion of the global population still using unimproved sources is estimated at only 11%; less than half of the 24% estimated for 1990

  • 83% of the population who lack access to an improved drinking water source (636 million) live in rural areas

  • Over 180 million people still rely on rivers, streams, ponds, or lakes to meet their daily drinking water needs

Those at Greatest Risk from Land Acquisition

Through the extraction of fossil fuels, mining of precious minerals, dam construction, logging, and the clearance of people from nature reserves, land acquisition remains a serious issue. According to a recent publication (State of the World’s Minoritiesand Indigenous Peoples 2012), the minority groups and indigenous people from the following ten countries are at greatest risk from the issue of land acquisition (the minorities and indigenous peoples are in parenthesis):

  • Somalia (Bantu, Benadiri and ‘caste’ groups [e.g., Gabooye]; clan members at risk in fighting [e.g., Hawiye, Darod])

  • Sudan (Fur, Zaghawa, Massalit and others in Darfur; Dinka, Nuba, Beja)

  • Afghanistan (Hazara, Pashtun, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkmen, Baluchis)

  • Iraq (Shi’a, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkmen, Christians, Mandaeans, Yezidis, Shabak, Faili Kurds, Bahá’ís, Palestinians)

  • Burma/Myanmar (Kachin, Karenni, Karen, Mons, Rakhine, Rohingyas, Shan, Chin [Zomis], Wa)

  • Pakistan (Ahmadiyya, Baluchis, Hindus, Mohhajirs, Pashtun, Sindhis, other religious minorities)

  • Democratic Republic of the Congo (Hema and Lendu, Hutu, Luba, Lunda, Tutsi/Banyamulenge, Batwa/Bambuti, other groups)

  • South Sudan (Murle, Nuer, Dinka, Anuak, Jie, Kachipo)

  • Ethiopia (Anuak, Afars, Oromo, Somalis, smaller minorities)

  • Iran (Arabs, Azeris, Bahá’ís, Baluchis, Kurds, Turkomen)