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World Day Against Child Labour: UNICEF and IKEA mark ten years of collaboration to protect children’s rights and prevent child labour

2010-06-10

 

TORONTO, 11 June 2010 - On the eve of the World Day against Child Labour, UNICEF and IKEA are marking ten years of a ground-breaking partnership to protect children’s rights and prevent child labour. The $196 million partnership impacts the lives of an estimated 100 million children in over 30 countries, making IKEA UNICEF’s largest corporate donor.

Most recently the IKEA Social Initiative, IKEA’s philanthropic arm, has invested in UNICEF’s work to prevent child labour in India’s cotton and cotton-seed farming. India’s 2001 national census estimates the number of working children at 12.6 million. Children working in the agriculture sector constitute two-thirds of the total child labour force and the percentage in the rural child labour force is more than 75 per cent. 

“IKEA Social Initiative’s investment has enabled us to dramatically scale up our efforts to contribute to realizing children’s rights” said Karin Hulshof, UNICEF India Representative. “Their commitment to address the root causes of child labour is impressive. We started in 2000 focusing on children in the carpet producing regions of northern India.”

“As a result more than 80,000 children received an education they would otherwise have been denied. IKEA’s support has allowed us to further expand this programme in the carpet making districts as well as using the learning to reach millions of children in cotton producing regions.’’
 
Given IKEA’s large purchase of textiles in India, IKEA Social Initiative has made a commitment to go beyond the reach of the company’s efforts to secure good working conditions in its supply chain. The aim of these efforts is the prevention and elimination of child labour in cotton and cotton seed growing areas in several Indian states.

The focus on prevention of child labour – investing in addressing the root causes - is of particular importance because it prioritizes achieving substantial and long-lasting change.

Protecting the rights of children in disadvantaged cotton and cotton-seed producing communities is at the heart of the IKEA Social Initiative funded cotton programme, implemented by UNICEF in partnership with the Government of India. Millions of children and their families will benefit from strengthened child protection structures so that children are protected from exploitation and abuse; improved quality of education which will increase enrolment and retention of children, improved access to services and social protection schemes with the over-arching goal of empowering communities to take collective action against child labour. The programme will reach communities in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

 “It’s not unusual for children to miss several months of school because they’re out in the fields picking cotton or weeding”, said Marianne Barner, Head of the IKEA Social Initiative. “Afterwards it’s difficult for them to catch up. Many simply drop out of school because they lack support and motivation. That’s why the focus on prevention is so important to us; improving the quality of education, for example, yields big results that impact generations to come.”

Background:

UNICEF’s partnership with IKEA began ten years ago with UNICEF supporting IKEA to develop the company’s child labour code of conduct, “The IKEA Way on Preventing Child Labour”, which sets outs its demands on suppliers and sub-contractors to prevent child labour. Based on national law, relevant ILO conventions and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the code clearly states that actions must always be in the best interests of the child. 

Today the partnership has evolved into a global partnership whose vision has grown to protect the rights of children in Asia, Europe and Africa, and to inform and engage IKEA’s 590 million visitors to the stores and 123,000 co-workers about every child’s right to quality education through the annual in-store Soft Toy campaign. The partnership has four goals for children:

Contribute to UNICEF’s commitments for children in South Asia, particularly India to fulfill the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Millennium Development Goals:

  • Strengthen community capacity to fulfil children’s rights towards education and protection
  • Improve child survival by enabling a healthy environment
  • Improve the quality of education in schools for all children
  • Increase women’s empowerment

Protect the most vulnerable in emergency situations and support their recovery and rehabilitation: After the China 2008 earthquake IKEA provided materials to meet children’s immediate needs (such as towels sleeping bags, school bags) valued at $894,000 and has since invested $4.32 million in rehabilitation work. After the earthquake in Haiti, IKEA also provided relevant materials to help UNICEF meet children’s needs.

Contribute to achieving access to quality education: Since 2003 IKEA has run a seasonal cause- related-marketing campaign in stores worldwide. Donations from the sale of soft toys to both UNICEF and Save the Children have totaled 23.7 million Euros enabling approximately eight million children in close to 40 countries to access a quality education. In 2009 IKEA developed a solar-powered desk lamp (Sunnan), for every lamp sold IKEA Social Initiative donates one to UNICEF and Save the Children to enable children to play, read and write at night. 500,000 lamps have been sold so far.

Act as powerful advocate for children’s rights by speaking out for children’s rights on international and business platforms such as The Hague Global Child Labour conference 2010 organized by the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs in close coordination with the ILO.

UNICEF’s approach to corporate engagement goes beyond fundraising and the IKEA partnership is a powerful example of the multiple ways in which UNICEF works with business to make an identifiable and lasting contribution towards improving the lives of children and protecting their rights. Over the course of ten years children have benefitted from IKEA’s responsible business practices, multi-million dollar investments in programmes, the creation of new and innovative products and advocacy on children’s rights.

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About UNICEF
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.ca.

About IKEA Social Initiative
IKEA believes that home is the most important place in the world, and children are the most important people in the world. The mission of the IKEA Social Initiative is to improve the rights and life opportunities of the many children - creating substantial and lasting change. We work together with UNICEF and Save the Children to promote the rights of every child to a healthy, secure childhood and access to quality education. UNDP is our partner to empower women - the key to create a better future for children. Current IKEA Social Initiative projects benefit an estimated 100 million children.

About IKEA
IKEA is a home furnishings company with Swedish origins founded in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad. The vision of the company is to 'create a better everyday life for the many people.' The business idea is to offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishings at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them. IKEA has a total of 301 stores in 36 countries/territories, of which 34 stores are owned and run by franchisees outside the IKEA Group in 16 countries/territories. The IKEA store welcomes a total of 590 million visitors during a year. More information is available on www.ikea.ca.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.