ECPAT UK is marking Universal Children’s Day (20 November) by calling on business, government, and all other stakeholders to come together to uphold children’s rights.

Universal Children’s Day was established by the United Nations in 1954 to raise awareness of children’s rights and promote child welfare around the world. The day is held annually on the anniversary of the adoption of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

ECPAT UK has been working to promote and protect children’s rights for over 20 years. The UNCRC is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty and enshrines the rights of children everywhere to protection from sexual exploitation, child labour, trafficking, and all forms of violence.  

In 2009 ECPAT UK convinced the government to ratify the Convention’s “Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography” which declares that states must protect child victims of trafficking, online child abuse, sexual exploitation, and child labour, and must recognise the grave nature of these crimes. Significantly, ECPAT UK also successfully campaigned for the UK government to remove its reservation on Article 22 of the Convention, which related to children who were subject to immigration control. This means that the British government now accepts responsibility for upholding the rights of all children in the UK, regardless of their immigration status. However, governments are not the only actors responsible for protecting children’s rights and ECPAT UK is urging UK companies to ensure that children’s rights are upheld in business practice and supply chains.

Last month ECPAT UK welcomed new guidance for businesses on complying with the Modern Slavery Act, but warned that much more was needed to protect children from exploitation and trafficking. According to the Children’s Rights and Business Principles, all businesses must “meet their responsibility to respect children's rights and commit to supporting the human rights of children". With an estimated 170 million children engaged in child labour worldwide, UN agencies have been eager to stress the important role that businesses have in protecting children’s rights. 

“Child trafficking is a fundamental violation of children’s rights” said Bharti Patel, CEO of ECPAT UK. “Businesses, governments, and individuals all have an important role to play in making sure that children everywhere are able to enjoy their rights and live a life free of exploitation and abuse. All stakeholders must accept their responsibility to protect children and ensure that the child’s best interest is put at the heart of their practice. Only then will we do justice to the legacy of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”