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CHILD SLAVERY: US Protocol aims to end Child Slavery in Cocoa Fields

October 1, 2001 · 

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On 1 October, the international cocoa and chocolate industry signed a Protocol in the United States to eliminate child slavery in the chocolate industry.

The Harkin-Engel Protocol set a four year timetable for all stages of the cocoa industry to comply with standards set by the International Labour Organization’s Convention against the worst forms of child labour, No 182. It has been signed by leading members and companies of the cocoa and chocolate industry, the IPEC programme of the ILO, International Union of Food and Allied Workers, Child Labor Coalition, National Consumers League and Free the Slaves (Anti-Slavery’s associate in the USA).

Under the agreement advisory groups have been set up to take responsibility for the investigation of child labour practices in West Africa and to advise on appropriate remedies. The remedies set out will be monitored by a consultative group including, trade unions and NGOs. The chocolate industry will establish a foundation to sustain the efforts to eliminate abusive child labour in the West African cocoa industry, including the development of best practices in the fight against the worst forms of child labour and development of alternatives for children removed from such situations.

Anti-Slavery welcomes the introduction of the Protocol as a positive move by the chocolate industry to take responsibility for labour practices throughout its supply chain. However, we are concerned that it might fail to address the situation of young adults (18 years and older) who may find themselves working under conditions of forced labour. It is vital that any investigation and subsequent strategy tackle all forms of forced labour and also address the conditions that foster trafficking in the region, principally poverty and lack of alternatives.

The extent of forced labour on cocoa farms in West Africa and the numbers of children working in cocoa production is not known. The first large survey to assess labour conditions on cocoa farms in the region will soon be launched by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, assisted by the ILO. It will survey 3,000 farms across West Africa; the results will inform the future strategy to end child and forced labour in the cocoa industry.
Source: Anti-Slavery website news, http://www.antislavery.org/

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