Economic Empowerment

“Your education is the only wealth you can carry with you throughout your life”, (Dr. Song Pok-Shyn)

As heads of state pack their bags for the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, there are a few essential documents they should pack in their briefcases. They should pack UN treaties that discuss the rights to economic development, social equities, and human rights. It may not be easy to get the papers together; the documents are likely in the hands of bureaucrats or have already been marked for the archives. However, these papers are excellent references for the Davos discussions on the future of the world economy.

While UN treaties are known to deal with jurisprudence and international law, they have much richer political meaning. The treaty ratification process requires states to determine how a global ethical standard, such as human rights, applies to specific issues around hiring practices and business management. That connection is unlikely to materialize unless world leaders outside of the UN circle are aware that these documents exist.

Two treaties with particular relevance to the majority of the world’s poor, especially women and children, are the following:

  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW): As of 2018, the Convention was ratified by 188 countries (although not by the US) and went into force in 1981. It is often described as an international bill of rights for women. Article 11 of CEDAW ensures that state parties take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment. It also guarantees them their rights to work, free choice of profession, promotion, job security, remuneration in respect of work of equal value” Other provisions include the right to social security, health and safety in the workplace. More articles provide broad social and political rights, such as the right to education, health, and political participation.
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC): The CRC is outstanding in international law as the most broadly ratified treaty ever. Currently only two member states have not ratified the CRC: The United States and Somalia. The 191 countries that stand behind the CRC have affirmed the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender, language, religion, opinion, origin, disability, birth or any other characteristic. The CRC also provides a framework to defend children’s rights as universal, indivisible, and interdependent–all of which are essential elements to rally national support for children’s welfare and end child labor.

Presidents and prime ministers may have left their homes in haste on their way to Davos, but that should not get in the way of making sure that their preparations are adequate. The treaties should be considered quasi-personal travel items. After all, their signatures and those of their eminent predecessors adorn them. Heads of state must accept personal responsibility for these treaties in order to get CEOs in the private sector to take an interest.