For the past two decades, I dedicated my professional life to the realization of children's rights through advocacy and through programmatic efforts in both developing and industrialized countries. I was also involved in the development of the resources used to educate and train duty bearers, the official term used in referring to anyone with an obligation, a responsibility, to advance and protect children's rights. I suppose it goes without saying that the target group we tried to reach included everyone. The resources we developed were used to benefit parents, educators, law enforcement officials, the judiciary, professionals in all fields, government employees, international development staff, and a range of NGOs.
In the early days, I recall healthy debates occurring between advocates of a needs-based approach to programming, versus a rights-based approach to programming. And as exposure to the rights-based framework accumulated, it was only a matter of time before epiphanies occurred and testimonials became commonplace. Rights, as a cluster, became the lens through which an increasing number of individuals examined their work, shifting from a service delivery model to one which offered a holistic perspective involving a rich web of powerfully engaged actors collaborating and speaking the same language, relying upon a new lexicon to characterize their work. The protection of children's rights had become infectious. And we became a noble bunch.
I observed the transformation of many people following their training experience; the Lawyer in Olongapo City in the Philippines who made a commitment to defend, pro bono, all children brought before the courts because he wanted to end the repeated victimization of children by the judiciary; the Professor from southern Thailand who returned to his university to interpret the Koran from a child rights perspective, and then there was another from the same training session in Thailand who, as an artist, illustrated a book interpreting the Convention on the Rights of the Child from a child's perspective. Unprompted; spontaneous.
What could a rights-based training do for your business? While it may appear as if businesses are being pushed out of their comfort zone and into an area where so many factors are beyond their control, an increasing number of businesses recognize the absolute importance of understanding the social implications of their decisions. Informed by the General Principles Framework, businesses will be expected to ask the right questions, allowing them to advance human rights and to mitigate any adverse impact of their decisions. Not only will this allow their business to prosper from the considerations they've made, it could positively transform the social fabric of the communities impacted by their business decisions. And it won't stop there, the rights-based framework, when applied to business decisions, will help to enrich the personal and professional engagement of a company's employees in both the social and business evolution of the enterprise.
Photo credit: Zu Dragon IMG 1503 October 2007 via flickr