GENEVA (ILO News) - The International Labour Organization (ILO) today welcomed the agreement between two members of the U.S. Congress and representatives of the world chocolate industry to eliminate child slavery on West African cocoa plantations and end the worst forms of child labour in the global cocoa-chocolate sector.
"This is another step forward to eradicating everywhere the exploitation of children in the work place," said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. "The ILO - through its International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) - and all the others involved in this new initiative is delighted at the outcome."
The "Harkin-Engel Protocol", named after U.S. Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Elliott Engel who spearheaded talks with the Chocolate Manufacturers Association and the World Cocoa Foundation, resulted in the agreement being signed in Washington to better identify and address abusive child labour practices in the cocoa-growing areas of West Africa.
The ILO, the International Union of Food and Allied Workers (IUF), the anti-slavery group "Free the Slaves" and the National Consumers League (NCL) were initial members of an advisory group that participated in the agreement. These non-industry, private sector stakeholders, together with U.S. Government officials, will be partners in carrying out all aspects of the Harkin-Engel Protocol during the next four years.
The Protocol provides for the development of a credible, mutually acceptable system of industry-wide global standards, along with independent monitoring and reporting, to identify and eliminate any use of the worst forms of child labour in the growing and processing of cocoa beans. The agreement also provides for public certification that cocoa used in chocolate or related products has been grown and processed without forced child labour.
ILO-IPEC is committed to working on the problem of child labour in cocoa-growing countries in partnership with the CMA and other interested parties among governments, labour unions and non-governmental organizations. It is conducting a survey on the issue throughout the cocoa-growing areas of West Africa, the results of which should be available at the end of the year.
ILO-IPEC aims to progressively eliminate child labour worldwide, emphasizing the eradication of the worst forms of abuse as quickly as possible. To achieve this, it is active in more than 70 countries with programmes that encourage policy reform and put in place concrete measures to end child labour and through international and national campaigns to change social attitudes and promote ratification and effective implementation of ILO child labour conventions.