Thoughts while reading: Children and the Feminist Ethic of Care by Tom Cockburn

I have an idealized vision of liberating children from subtle and overt oppressive social norms in society. The process of liberation that I envision looks similar to other historic social movements, such as those involving slaves, women and ethnic minorities. These movements follow (in an overly simplistic way) as such: oppressed groups in society understand the ways in which they are oppressed by reflecting on their situation compared to ‘others’; a liberation discourse takes hold and the oppressed group demands for equal rights and opportunities; then, equal rights and opportunities are granted (or obtained) and are legally codified.

In the article on the feminist’s ethic of care, Cockburn (2005) states, “…children can become aware that they are disadvantaged only if they are able to make evaluative judgements based on the practices occurring ‘out there’ in the wider world beyond the dyadic caring relationship.” (p. 84). In the context of the article and in my own words, it seems that the author is saying that one path to liberation for children is for them to become aware of the differences of care (between relationships and between the carer and cared for) that occur outside their own personal relationships. Additionally, these differences of care are characterized by various levels and forms of power, justice and equality which become increasingly apparent.

As a children’s advocate, the moral and ethical reasoning that has dominated my actions and beliefs has largely been based on a rights-based discourse that emphasizes the uniformity and abstractness of the human condition. I’ve been guided by an idealized notion that children are deserving of respect and autonomy because they are fundamentally similar to adults in their capacity to evaluate their social condition and express that condition. The article on the Ethics of Care has inspired me to consider more the context (both historical and situational) in which care (and thus dependence) occurs, and how it defines and structures a relationship that either perpetuates or abolishes dominant oppressive attitudes.

Cockburn, T. (2005). Children and the Feminist Ethic of Care. Childhood 12(71). 71-89.

Research with Children

I am often asked how one can conduct research with children in order to truly represent their voice in the findings, whether its for public consultations, academic research or program evaluations. My first task is to probe with questions about the underlying purpose of involving children in the research. Unfortunately, I’ve had some conversations where the involvement of children is only surface-level deep–a tokenistic inclusion of children’s voices. Usually, this only serves to weaken and undermine the true purpose of research: to uncover truths about our world through scientific methods including representative samples. It can also harm and misrepresent children that are involved in the research.

If you are starting to think about how to genuinely involve children’s participation in research, you better be ready to read A LOT! By reading some of the great material on research with children you can begin to understand children’s position in research–and even in our adult-centric world. Meaningfully and authentically involving children’s participation in research can contribute immensely to the truths that you are trying to uncover in your research. Not only will your program be better off with a good understanding of your stakeholders, but you will be actively supporting and advocating for the realization of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child–one of the most important and widely accepted international conventions. Doesn’t that sound great?!

Here is some material to get your started on you reading adventure:

Also, these organizations publish material that relates to involving children in research, monitoring and evaluations:


Presentation: Children’s Online Privacy and Rights

Petten MaRS presentation 2014

On March 19th, 2014 at the MaRS Discover District in Toronto, Ontario, I presented to a group of educators, technologists, entrepreneurs and nonprofits on the topic of Children’s Online Privacy and Rights. In light of a rapidly changing legislative environment in which child-oriented businesses operate, the presentation focused on how businesses and the private economic sector affect children and childhood. Discussions focused on ethical and pedagogical issues that businesses faced, which were highlighted through various case studies (included below in the links). The topic of vulnerabilitiesand, specifically, children’s vulnerabilities to the marketplace–was discussed and highlighted through examples. The presentation ended with providing multiple, practical ways of becoming more child-friendly through the adoption of specific policies and processes that respect, protect and remedy children’s online privacy and rights.

Main Takeaways:

  • Trends and Legislation
    • There is a big difference between ages. Children are not a homogenous group and are as diverse as adults
    • There is a growing market with younger children going online and using apps
    • Considering the upward trends in children’s media use, a number of advocacy groups and law makers have introduced legislation aimed to regulate how commercial enterprises collect, distribute and use personal information of children.
    • While COPPA is a much welcomed piece of legislation in the wild west of the app marketplace, there is a large emphasis on parental rights, rather than children’s rights. I would be very excited to see some legislation around children’s informed consent. For example, requiring that companies develop policies that are directly accessible to children.
    • I’ve only presented three different pieces of legislation that apply to children’s online privacy. If you want to access the broad North American market, you’ll have to look at individual state and provincial legislation. If that seems like a massive undertaking for a small start-up, then a simple solution is just not to collect children’s personal information and/or advertise to them.
  • Ethical and Pedagogical Issues
    • The children’s market (whether it includes food, clothing, toys, video games, and education technology) is a massive industry with a growing base of consumers. This makes it a very appealing and exciting market for new ventures.
    • There are many strong voices that criticize the role of commercial activity in childhood. They are worried, and rightfully so, that this commercial activity threatens to harm children’s healthy development and socialization.
    • Businesses are increasingly creating and influencing the experiences of childhood. This is problematic if the sole purpose of a business is to maximize profit without ethical regard for children’s well-being and learning objectives.
    • Children represent a vulnerable group in society. Therefore, as a business you have an ethical responsibility to respect their unique vulnerabilities and design a business that does not exploit them.
    • In general, for all the ethical issues that I talked about, you should always ask yourself: Does it truly benefit children or is it about the bottom line of the company?
    • Creating a pedagogically sound product or service for children means to respect them as learners and individuals. If your company is solely focused on making untested claims, using information for marketing and advertising, and profit maximization, you run a great risk of alienating your customers.


 Download the PDF.

* Disclaimer: I do not necessarily endorse these organizations. I am attempting to represent the broad perspectives on the issue.

People and organizations to follow:

Children’s Rights and Business:

US Gov’t websites:

News Stories referenced in presentation:


The International Frameworks on Children’s Rights that Guide My Consultative Practice

This post articulates my consultative services, and the frameworks that guide my research and practice in the field of children’s rights and private economic activity. I begin with a broad overview of human rights and business, and finish with specific services in my consulting practice.

Human Rights and Business Activity

The expansion of economic globalization has substantially altered the regulatory environment in which economic enterprises operate. These enterprises—more commonly known as multinational corporations—have extended their economic reach and footprint beyond national regulatory legal frameworks. Subsequently, international organizations have sought to develop supranational legal governance frameworks to institutionalize the social norms in which businesses operate. One such regulatory framework is the United Nations’ “protect, respect, and remedy” framework which seeks to “operationalize” the conduct of businesses in respect to human rights. The three pillars of this framework are:

  • “the State duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including businesses, through appropriate policies, regulation, and adjudication;
  • the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which in essence means to act with due diligence to avoid infringing on the rights of others;
  • and greater access by victims to effective remedy, judicial and non-judicial” (Ruggie, 2009).

In more practical terms, the first pillar encompasses national legislation, and involves the design and implementation of economic and legal policies that recognize the cross-border operations of businesses. The second pillar focuses on the agency of the business to operationalize human rights due diligence in all business activity. The third pillar refers to remediation processes used by businesses, governments and legal institutions for when human rights abuses actually occur.

The second pillar, which involves the agency of the business to operationalize human rights due diligence processes, offers considerable opportunities to realize the rights of the child in private economic activity. John Ruggie, who served as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Business and Human Rights from 2006 to 2011, identifies ‘human rights due diligence’ as, “a comprehensive, proactive attempt to uncover human rights risks, actual or potential, over the entire life cycle of a project or business activity, with the aim of avoiding and mitigating those risks” (Ruggie, 2009). Several frameworks and guidelines have subsequently been developed to realize this second pillar, which are explored below.

The Realization of Rights in a Knowledge Society

We live in a rapidly emerging digitally-faciltated knowledge society in which economic growth and prosperity is increasingly influenced by the creation of knowledge (Hargreaves, 2003). For example, the proliferation of “apps” designed for a multitude of computing devices has created a massive economic marketplace and has touched nearly every part of modern society. This knowledge-based economy contrasts with marketplaces that rely heavily on natural resources (i.e. the production of goods) or human labour-intensive services (i.e. tourism). This marketplace relies on a complex network of businesses ranging from the likes of Google, Microsoft and Apple with extensive global supply chains, to small entrepreneurial start-ups with minimal legal and compliance human resources.

In consideration of a rapidly emerging digitally-faciltiate knowledge economy, advancements in digital technologies have created unprecedented opportunities to realize the rights of the child in economic and business activity—ranging from fighting online sexual exploitation of children to allowing children’s freedom of expression and association through social media. Several Articles in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) have important implications for children’s digitally-mediated realities, namely Articles:

  • 2. Non-discrimination,
  • 3. Best interests of the child,
  • 4. Protection of rights,
  • 12. Respect for the views of the child,
  • 13. Freedom of expression,
  • 15. Freedom of association,
  • 16. Right to privacy,
  • 17. Access to information; mass media,
  • 23. Children with disabilities,
  • 28. Right to education,
  • 29. Goals of education,
  • 30. Children of minorities/indigenous groups,
  • 32. Child labour,
  • 34. Sexual exploitation,
  • and 36. Other forms of exploitation.

[click here for a comprehensive list of Articles in the UNCRC]

Considering the emerging and expanding opportunities for rights to be realized through digital technologies, businesses need to take a proactive and explicit approach to respecting and supporting the rights of the child. By doing so, businesses will acknowledge the tremendous impact they have on the rights and well-being of children, and, as a result, produce goods and services that contribute to children’s healthy development and well-being.

Several international human rights organizations have created industry-specific principles and guidelines that will guide the implementation of policies and processes that respect and support children’s rights in private economic activity. For example, the UN Global Compact has developed the Children’s Rights and Business Principles Framework (2012) which provides 9 practical guidelines for businesses to respect and support the rights of the child. Several principles relate specifically to the marketplace and include:

  • “# 4. Ensure the protection and safety of children in all business activities and facilitates
  • # 5. Ensure that products and services are safe, and seek to support children’s rights through them.
  • # 6. Use marketing and advertising that respect and support children’s rights.”

In recognition of these principles, UNICEF (2012) has subsequently developed a guidebook to be used by businesses in their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts. These guidelines involve 5 steps that will advance the rights of the child in all business activity:

  1. Policy commitment
  2. Assessing impacts
  3. Integration and action
  4. Tracking performance and reporting
  5. Remediation

Through my consultative practice, I introduce and implement these 5 practical steps into all business operations and strategies. Each step involves several policies, processes and activities that businesses can adopt to ensure compliance with the regulatory frameworks on children’s rights as articulated by the “protect, respect and remedy” framework, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Children’s Rights and Business Principles. In addition to ensuring the well-being of children in private economic activity, the adoption of these policies and processes can contribute to the legitimacy of a business’s social value which can be represented through marketing and advertising efforts.


Hargreaves, A. (2003). Teaching in the knowledge society: Education in the age of insecurity. New York: Teachers College Press.

Ruggie, J. (2009). Business and human rights: Towards operationalizing the “protect, respect and remedy” framework. Report to the Human Rights Council at the UN General Assembly. Available at:

UN. 1989. United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Available at:

UNICEF. 2012. Children are everyone’s business: A practical workbook to help companies understand and address their impact on children’s rights. Available at:

UN Global Compact. 2012. Children’s Rights and Business Principles. Available at:

The International Discourse on Children’s Participatory Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility

Abstract: Two global trends are taking place within our emerging knowledge society: (1) multinational private corporations are increasingly incorporating corporate social responsibility (CSR) principles into their business strategies and operations; (2) and international rights institutions and frameworks are increasingly recognizing the role of private corporations and CSR principles in development efforts. This paper seeks to situate children’s participatory rights within this growing trend. Through an exploration of these trends, opportunities for children’s genuine participation begin to arise within an increasingly globalized and technological knowledge society.


Connecting Participatory Rights to Private Corporations
CSR Principles in Relation to Children’s Rights
International Recognition of CSR Principles and Private Corporations

[see below for an accompanying presentation deck that was delivered to a masters seminar in Children’s Rights at Ryerson University’s Masters of Early Childhood Studies program]


The economic system of every state is becoming increasingly intertwined within a global trade network where massive amounts of monetary and human capital are exchanged between states on a daily basis. International regulatory frameworks and institutions are attempting to regulate and monitor capital flows to ensure fairness, justice and equity between states (Brown, 2010; Fernando, 2011). The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Economic Forum and the United Nations Global Compact are among the international institutions that seek to promote human dignity and fairness in economic activity between states with various levels of wealth and power. Subsequently, multiple international frameworks have been created to ensure the protection, promotion and remedy of human rights of marginalized populations within states where international businesses operate (Brown, 2010; Fernando, 2011).

Recognizing that global economic activity is primarily driven by multinational private corporations, various international institutions and frameworks are increasingly acknowledging the tremendous role, responsibility and influence of private multinational corporations in economic activity that impacts human rights (Brown, 2010; Wood & Scharffs, 2002). Parallel to this, private corporations are increasingly recognizing the role of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) within their business operations and strategies (Banerjee, 2008; Caroll, 1999; Garriga and Melé, 2004). While international institutions and frameworks have typically held States accountable to human rights and are only beginning to extend to private corporations, the development of CSR principles are being developed internally within the corporate industry and many businesses are attempting to hold themselves accountable to human rights.

Children represent a marginalized population in society whom are involved in global economic activity and for whom these international institutions and frameworks are meant to protect and respect (Boyle, 2009). In order to protect, provide and encourage the rights and optimal development of the child, the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was drafted, approved and ratified by 193 countries, and came into force on 2 September, 1989. While most of the UNCRC focuses on rights associated with protection from harmful exploitation in economic activity, children’s participatory rights are also provided by the Convention.

The acknowledgement of private corporations by international institutions and the development of CSR principles within private corporations are paramount to the full realization of the UNCRC in society that is characterized by an emerging digitally-facilitated knowledge society (Hargreaves, 2003). This knowledge society is characterized by economic growth and prosperity that is increasingly influenced by the creation of knowledge and the resulting economic output of services, ideas and communications (Hargreaves, 2003). The knowledge society and its knowledge property is also being influenced and controlled by the private sector which is increasingly coming into conflict with the public domain (David & Foray, 2002).

Two global trends are taking place within our emerging knowledge society: (1) multinational private corporations are increasingly incorporating CSR principles into their business strategies and operations; (2) and international rights institutions and frameworks are increasingly recognizing the role of private corporations and CSR principles. This paper seeks to situate children’s participatory rights within this growing trend. Through an exploration of these trends, opportunities for children’s genuine participation begin to arise within an increasingly globalized and technological knowledge society. Within this society, children’s participatory rights can be realized if private corporations conduct their strategies and operations according to CSR principles as articulated by the various international institutions and frameworks.

Connecting Participatory Rights to Private Corporations

The global movement to protect, promote and realize the rights of the child has seen many States enacting laws in uniformity with the individual articles of the UNCRC. Protection rights in the UNCRC that are associated with economic activity are articulated in Articles 32 and 34 and relate to commercial work and sexual exploitation, respectively. Furthermore, Article 32 holds states accountable to upholding the child’s protection rights by enforcing a minimum age for admission to employment, appropriate regulation of hours and conditions, and penalties to ensure enforcement for violation of these rights (UN, 1989). While participation rights are also embedded in the UNCRC, the interpretation of children’s participatory rights in private economic activity remains relatively unexplored in the literature.

Article 12 in the UNCRC (1989) states that, “the child who is capable of forming his or her own views [has] the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child.”. Article 17 in the UNCRC articulates that states parties, “shall ensure that the child has access to information and material,” through mass media that is of, “social and cultural benefit to the child,” and in accordance with Article 29 which articulates the child’s right to an appropriate education in, “preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society.” Furthermore, Article 28 Section 3, encourages international cooperation in education, “in particular with a view to contributing to the elimination of ignorance and illiteracy throughout the world and facilitating access to scientific and technical knowledge and modern teaching methods.”

Considering our digitally-facilitated knowledge society which is largely controlled by private corporations, the above Articles (12, 28(3), 29) of the UNCRC implicate children’s participation in private economic activity. Digital technologies–for example, the Internet, personal computers and mobile phones–allow, “access to information and material,” (UNCRC, Article 12) through a mass media known as, the Internet. These digital technologies are also, “facilitating access to scientific and technical knowledge,” (UNCRC, Article 28 (3)) and are increasingly becoming a, “modern teaching method”. Digital technology, including the Internet, grants children the capacity for individual expression and a unique opportunity to, “express those views freely in all matters affecting [them]” (UNCRC, Article 12) through multiple means of expression (Article 13), including the use of social media, blogging, and audio and video conferencing.

The digital technologies that are increasingly being used to educate children lie predominantly within the domain of private corporations (de Castell & Jenson, 2004). Corporations are the main designers, producers and promoters of the digital technologies that are quickly becoming ubiquitous in many children’s formal and informal educational settings and materials (Kleiman, 2000; Greenfield, 2009; Livingstone, 2005; Strommen, 1992). Children, as one of the central users of digital technologies–both at home and in schools–, have very little direct impact and influence over the enormously complex private corporation and its business strategies and operations (Druin, 2002; Guha, 2004). The current state of private economic activity thus excludes children’s genuine participation and their associated rights in matters that affect them the most, namely their education.

The enormous wealth and power that private corporations hold in today’s globalized world necessitates an obligation and responsibility to act ethically in its business operations (Brown, 2010). Many private corporations operate within multiple countries and are not only involved with influencing children’s education through its products and services, but are also involved in the manufacturing process, which typically occur in developing countries where issues of exploitative child labour is prevalent (Brown, 2010; Fernando, 2011). As such, the development and adoption of CSR principles by private corporations and their acknowledgement by international institutions, like UNICEF and the UN, represent progress in recognizing children’s participatory rights, whether they are explicitly stated or not within individual corporations’ CSR policies.

CSR Principles in Relation to Children’s Rights

The notion of CSR, as it applies to private corporations, has a long and complex history, especially within the United States–the birthplace of the modern private corporation (Banerjee, 2008; Caroll, 1999). After a thorough investigation of over 50 years of literature on the definition of CSR, Caroll (1999) suggests four kinds of social responsibilities that constitute CSR practice: economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic. To put in more pragmatic terms, Caroll (1991) summarizes, “The CSR firm should strive to make a profit, obey the law, be ethical, and be a good corporate citizen” (p. 43).

However, as Banerjee (2008), Caroll (1999), and Garriga and Melé (2004) point out, the notion of CSR is highly contextual and unclear. This presents a problem when discussing children’s rights in a globalized economy. Some may believe CSR conveys the idea of legal responsibility; to others, it means being ethical in social behaviours; still to others, CSR may simply equate with charitable contributions regardless of the nature of the economic activity (Votaw, 1972). Relatively few of the CSR principles outline participation rights at all, whether adult’s or children’s.

In order to clarify over 50 years of literature, Garriga and Melé (2004) attempt to ‘map the terrain’ of CSR theories and approaches by classifying them in four groups: (1) instrumental theories, which focus on the wealth creation of corporations and that any social activities are a means to economic results; (2) political theories, which focus on the responsible use of political power by corporations; (3) integrative theories, in which the corporation is focused on social demands in society; and (4) ethical theories, which articulate how corporations should ethically conduct themselves in society. Integrative theories of CSR could provide a useful model for contextualizing children’s participatory rights in economic activity which produces products and services that are meant to meet the social needs of an increasingly technological society. In other words, corporations operate in society only in as much as social demands dictate, which gives them a certain legitimacy and prestige. As such, corporations should take into account these social demands and integrate them in their business strategies and operations in accordance with social values (Garriga and Melé, 2004).

These social values within a complex globalized economy can be very difficult to articulate. However, a number of prominent social and international institutions, such as UNICEF and the UN, have undertaken this monumental task and continue to articulate them through various frameworks and documentations, which I will discuss in the subsequent sections of this paper.

Garriga and Melé (2004) identify the concept of social responsiveness as being instrumental to integrative approaches to CSR. When private corporations are socially responsive, they are able to identify the unmet social demands of society and choose to address these demands through economic activity in accordance with the social values of society.

While CSR principles have been heavily critiqued in modern society (Banerjee, 2008; Matten & Moon, 2004), it is possible for private corporations to take a specific theory and approach to CSR, such as integrative theories, in order to maximize children’s participation in economic activity. Children represent a key audience and consumer to some private corporations. Thus, their legitimacy and prestige, or as UNICEF states, “their social license to operate” (UN Global Compact, 2012, p. 3), is directly correlated to children’s unmet social demands. In order for private corporations to live up to their CSR policies, they must include children’s genuine participation in their business strategies and operations.

It should also be noted that integrative theories of CSR assume that society’s social needs and values are aligned with the best interests of its citizens, including children. It may be that society does not know what is best for its citizens. As such, any CSR policies that private corporations adopt should also consider other theories and approaches related to CSR such as profitability, political power, and ethical conduct.

International Recognition of CSR Principles and Private Corporations

By adopting an integrative approach to CSR, we recognize that private corporations can be responsible by meeting the social demands of society in accordance with social values. Several documents and frameworks by the UN and UNICEF can be understood to articulate these social demands and values of a global population. For example, in light of the discovery of extreme forms of exploitative child labour in developing countries, the UNCRC developed Article 32 which recognizes a child’s right to be protected from economic exploitation that may be harmful to their development (UN, 1989). Furthermore, in recognition of our knowledge society, the UNCRC developed Aarticles 17, 28, and 29 which articulate a child’s right to access information and material through mass media which will prepare them to live in a free society. This right in the UNCRC articulates the social demand that children need access to certain technologies in order to participate fully in society and contribute to their intellectual development.

Recently, the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), a UN agency that seeks to work with international businesses to align their operations and strategies with human rights, along with UNICEF and Save the Children have launched an initiative to protect children’s rights within our increasingly globalized economic system. Their flagship document entitled, Children’s Rights and Business Practices (CRBP), is an attempt to promote children’s protective and participatory rights within the private sector businesses’ strategies and operations, and to be subsequently codified in within CSR policies (UN Global Compact, 2012). This document is another attempt, in addition to Article 32 in the UNCRC, to further detail the social demands society places on the economic activity of private corporations in respect to children’s rights.

The CRBP document gives more weight to social demands that emphasize protective rights rather than participatory rights. However, the document clearly identifies that one of the core principles of the UNCRC is child participation. In outlining various social demands in accordance with social values, the CRBP document misses an opportunity to include children’s participation. For example, Principle 2 in the CRBP document outlines that, “all business should contribute towards the elimination of child labour, including in all business activities and business relationships” (UN Global Compact, 2012, p. 18). Several authors have illustrated the dichotomous role of child labour in developing countries and how international pressure to eliminate child labour comes at some costs while also excluding children’s genuine participation (Berge, 2007; Bourdillon, 2006; Boyle, 2009; Liebel, 2002, 2003). Berge (2007) and Liebel (2002, 2003) illustrate the children’s rights movements in Latin America where children exercised their participatory rights to freedom of expression on the issues that matter most to them, namely the need to work in order to sustain their livelihoods. Berge (2007) and Liebel’s (2002, 2003) argument is that child labour is inevitable in the existing capitalist system and the poverty resulting from it (Berge, 2007). Therefore, child labour is seen as a ‘necessary evil’, and it is better to recognize children’s active participation and advocacy for creating safer working conditions. Another argument, articulated by Liebel (2002), is that children’s work can contribute to their personal development and prepare them to play a responsible and meaningful role in their societies. Both of the aforementioned arguments were obtained directly from children exercising their participatory rights by expressing their social demands and values.

UNICEF also recently launched a new website to coincide with the launch of the CRBP initiative (UNICEF, 2012a). The website directly addresses CSR in order to advance children’s rights in business and economic activity. The website is meant to provide practical tools and knowledge for businesses who seek to align their strategies and operations with the UNCRC and the CRBP. The website acknowledges that children are not simply miniature versions of adults and that economic activity affects them differently. As such, private businesses need to consider the unique social context of childhood in order to reduce the harmful effects of economic activity.

However, similar to the CRBP initiative, there is a lack of discussion on children’s participatory rights. Interestingly, in a section on integrating children’s rights into business strategies and operations, the website mentions that the first step to becoming a child-friendly business is to take appropriate actions to prevent and mitigate the business impact on children’s rights. Furthermore, the website articulates that businesses can continue by advancing children’s rights through core business activities. This alludes to the notion of incorporating children’s participation in business activities as an extension of protective rights without explicitly saying so.

In order to clarify their stance on children’s participation in private economic activity, UNICEF recently released a document called, Children are Everyone’s Business (CEB), which serves as a practical workbook to help companies understand and address their impact on children’s rights (UNICEF, 2012b). In a section on engaging stakeholders, the document emphasizes that the, “best experts on how businesses impact children” (p. 34) are the children themselves. They continue to outline some methods for meaningful child participation and ethical considerations when working with children. While this mention of children’s genuine participation in private economic activity is a welcomed step in the right direction, it is far from an exhaustive discussion about how children can meaningfully participate. Furthermore, the section is only one page in a document that is more than hundred pages long.


Through an exploration of the recent developments and adoptions of CSR principles by prominent and international rights-based institutions, such as UNICEF and the UN, we see that there continues to be a lack of critical discussion and acknowledgement of children’s participatory rights. However, it is also evident that there is rapid growth in the field of CSR within these rights-based institutions with the release of several documents and initiatives within the last few years. The CRBP, CEB and UNCRC acknowledge the importance of participatory rights and children’s meaningful participation. As the two global trends of CSR adoption and its recognition by international institutions continue to expand and articulate itself through research and practice, the new conceptions of childhood will realize itself in our emerging knowledge society.


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Berge, M. van den, 2007. Working children’ s movements in Peru.  International Research on Working Children, pp.1-74

Bourdillon, M., 2006. Children and work : A review of current literature. Development and Change, 37(6), pp.1201-1226.

Boyle, E.H. & Kim, M., 2009. International human rights law, global economic reforms, and child survival and development rights outcomes. Law & Society Review, 43(3), pp.455-490.

Brown, S.D., 2010. Protecting the children: the need for a modern day balancing test to regulate child labor in international business. Journal of Transnational Law and Policy, 20, pp.129-156.

Carroll, A. B., 1991. The pyramid of corporate social responsibility: Toward the moral management of organizational stakeholders. Business Horizons, 34, pp.39-48.

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de Castell, S., & Jenson, J. 2004. Paying attention to attention: New economic for learning. Education Theory, 54(4), pp. 380–397.

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Fernando, J.L., 2001. Children’ s rights: Beyond the impasse. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 575, pp.8-24.

Hargreaves A. 2003. Teaching in the knowledge society: Education in the age of insecurity, (Chap.1, pp.9-34). New York: Teachers College Press.

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Presentation deck: