Slavery in the Chocolate Industry

Topics: International Labour Organization, Slavery, Chocolate Pages: 5 (1413 words) Published: February 13, 2014
Chocolate and Child Slavery: Unfulfilled Promises of the Cocoa Industry International Labor Rights Fund
June 30, 2004

It is estimated that America spends $13 billion a year on chocolate. However, in the past few years, it has become increasingly clear that this favorite American product is tainted with the labor of innocent young children.

The fact that child slaves are used in the harvesting of cocoa beans in Cote D'Ivoire, the world's major supplier of cocoa, is undisputed. The US State Department estimates that there are approximately 15,000 children working on cocoa, coffee, and cotton farms in the Cote D'Ivoire. In June 2001, the ILO also reported that trafficked child labor was used in cocoa production in West Africa. Media reports have unveiled stories about boys tricked or sold into slavery, some as young as nine years old, to work on cocoa plantations in Cote d'Ivoire. ILRF has verified these reports through our own independent investigations conducted in 2002 and 2003, and has interviewed children who have escaped from the cocoa plantations.

Cote d'Ivoire is the largest exporter of the world's cocoa beans, providing 43% of the world's supply. The US imports the majority of these cocoa beans, for use in chocolate candy, marketed by such top brands as M&M/Mars and Hershey.

The chocolate industry has acknowledged that child slaves are harvesting cocoa in Cote d'Ivoire. In response, in late 2001 the chocolate industry, as represented by the Chocolate Manufacturers' Association, proposed what is now commonly referred to as the Harkin-Engle Protocol. The Protocol calls for the development of industry-wide labor standards, and ultimately a voluntary-based system of corporate reporting, monitoring, and certification. It also provides for the creation of an industry-funded foundation that will oversee specific programs directed at alleviating child labor in the cocoa industry.

July 1, 2004 marks the two-year anniversary of the establishment of a Joint Foundation, and three years since the signing of the Harkin-Engle Protocol to eliminate the worst forms of child labor on cocoa farms in West Africa. Basically the Protocol has bought the industry three years of time before they must make good on their commitment to implement acceptable, voluntary, industry wide standards of public certification by July 1, 2005. With one year remaining, the industry has not made substantial progress toward this goal and the hope for a credible monitoring and certification system is diminishing.

On June 17, 2004, the chocolate and cocoa industry, at the request of Senator Tom Harkin, conducted a public briefing to provide a review progress made toward implementation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol and elimination of child labor in cocoa production in West Africa. Representatives from the Chocolate Manufacturers Association and the World Cocoa Foundation provided the formal briefing, and additional representatives from Hershey Foods and the International Cocoa Initiative were on hand to take questions from the audience. Child labor and fair trade advocates raised a number of questions about progress toward monitoring, certification and the elimination of child labor. Unfortunately, none of the representatives on hand were able to answer these fundamental questions.

Questions the cocoa industry didn't answer in its public briefing

Following are questions raised by public and consumer advocates during the June 17 public briefing. Industry representatives chose not to address these questions.

· What is the current situation of child labor in Cote d'Ivoire? Are there any indications to show that the number of child laborers have declined since the industry commenced its projects in Côte d'Ivoire?

· The cocoa industry representatives stated they were working with many other stakeholders, including the International Labor Organization (ILO), the World Bank, the US Department of Labor, the United States Agency...
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