International Business & Economy Campaign: For chocolate free of child-slavery!

Campaign: For chocolate free of child-slavery!




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Strong advocacy and awareness campaigns have resulted in sales of shark’s fin falling sharply in Singapore. Now is the time Singaporeans rise up and say no to cocoa produced by child slavery in the Western African nations.

After reading this, the sweet taste of chocolate will not be so sweet any more.

While all of us love chocolate, a vast majority is not aware that about 1.8 million children are subjected to hard labour and horrible working conditions on West African cocoa farms, which is where 70 percent of the world’s chocolate comes from. According to the US Department of state, Cote d’Ivoire or Ivory Coast, which alone accounts for nearly 40 percent of world’s cocoa production, has more than 109,000 children working under “the worst forms of child labour”, with over 10,000 being victims of human trafficking and slavery.

Time line

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The issue came to world-wide attention in 2000 when several reports of child labour and trafficking prevalent in cocoa plantation in Ghana and Ivory Coast emerged. In a bid to reduce production costs, cocoa plantation owners were employing children against their will. These children were forced to work long hours without any pay in very hazardous conditions.

“In 2001, under intense media scrutiny and in an attempt to avoid government regulation, major cocoa companies made a voluntary commitment (the Cocoa Industry Protocol) to certify their cocoa ‘child labour-free’ by July 2005, but that deadline passed with little fanfare. The deadline was then extended to certify 50 percent of farms ‘child-labour free’ by July 2008. The cocoa companies trumpeted a few pilot programs, but continue to purchase and reap profits from child labour cocoa,” says International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) – a US based advocacy organisation dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide.

The voluntary commitment signed in 2001 was called the Harkin-Engel Protocol or the “Cocoa Protocol”. In 2006, the US Department of Labour commissioned the Tulane University, New Orleans, US, to independently assess the progress of the Protocol in eliminating child slavery in cocoa production. In its final report submitted in 2011, the university noted while the protocol has been a catalyst for some action in Western Africa, “the survey of child migration and trafficking indicates that child trafficking is insufficiently addressed by the current initiatives”.

Our role

This has led to activists, NGOs and international organisations starting to advocate generating awareness about child-slavery laden chocolates so that consumers themselves demand change.

“The major cocoa importers need to use their vast influence on the cocoa market to bring about the kind of systemic changes necessary to eliminate child slavery once and for all,” argues ILRF.

Stop the Traffic, a growing global movement to stop human trafficking, informs, “Since 2007, we have been raising awareness about this issue and together with activists from around the world we’ve been campaigning to the chocolate industry to say ‘We want traffick-free Chocolate’.”

“The first step is to change your buying habits. Look for labels like Fair-Trade, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ certified. We believe that certification through credible, independent standards bodies such as Fairtrade, UTZ Certified, and Rainforest Alliance, is a key step in eradicating childtrafficking in the chocolate industry. So, buy certified chocolate and campaign for change!”

International Cocoa Initiative (ICI)

The ICI was founded in response to the Harkin-Engel protocol, to create an answer to eliminating Worst Forms of Child Labour (WFCL), child labour and Forced Adult Labour (FAL). The main thrust of their work has been community-level sensitization, mobilization and community-driven action to eliminate WFCL. From an initial scope of targeting the entire cocoa sector in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, its ambitions and goals have been slowly readjusted to be a clearinghouse of best practices, and to be an advocate for best practices to be adopted by relevant actors within cocoa producing communities.

From Cocoa Barometer 2012

All information in this article is courtesy of Stop the Traffic and International Labor Rights Forum.

Read more:

Early this year, Huffington Post published tips on buying child-slavery free chocolate.

Miki Mistrati and U Roberto Romano launch a behind-the-scenes investigation in their 2010 documentary, The dark side of chocolate, to verify whether ground-realities had changed for Western African children working in cocoa farms, nearly a decade after the industry pledged to eliminate child-slavery.   


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