Harkin, Engel say child labor protocol must continue as new report on cocoa industry emerges


Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) today made the following statements in response to the findings of their congressionally mandated report on the cocoa industry’s progress in eradicating child labor.

In 2001, after working with the chocolate and cocoa industries, the two Congressional leaders created the “Harkin-Engel Protocol” to develop a framework for the cocoa industry to do away with the worst forms of child and slave labor in the growing and processing of cocoa beans and their derived products. When industry leaders did not meet the Protocol’s 2005 deadline, Harkin and Engel commissioned Tulane University to serve as an oversight body to give an impartial assessment of the cocoa industry’s efforts to implement the protocol. Its findings were released on October 31, 2007; Tulane’s second annual report was released today.

“The Harkin-Engel protocol is a foundation for the future – a future where consumers have the tools to make informed choices based on how the products they purchase are made. For the second year, an impartial source shows that the protocol has made a difference in bringing together the private sector and national governments to focus on eliminating the worst forms of child labor and adult forced labor. Much of this progress is because of the International Cocoa Initiative’s (ICI) holistic approach to combating child labor and adult forced labor, as it has become an effective vehicle for engaging communities and driving change in Ghana and Ivory Coast. While this news is promising, we must continue our hard work and push for further results,” said Harkin. “Of major concern is the continued need, underscored in the report, for an increased focus on and coordination of remediation efforts for children engaged in the worst forms of child labor, with particular attention to those children engaged in the application of chemicals. I am hopeful that with the Tulane and the national government surveys now complete, the industry will work hand-in-hand with the national governments and the ICI to make remediation.”

Harkin noted that the protocol should be viewed as a framework for the institutionalization of eliminating the worst forms of child labor and adult forced labor in the cocoa supply chain. “I would urge the industry to commit to funding the certification and verification aspects of the protocol beyond 2011,” he concluded.

Rep. Engel said, “I am firmly committed to working with the cocoa industry and the governments of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire to eliminate all the worst forms of child and adult forced labor. My trip to West Africa last January reaffirmed my commitment to ending this practice.

“In its report, Tulane University says that by working as partners significant progress has been made, but I believe much important work remains to be done. In particular, the Tulane report talks about the need to better assess the extent and characteristics of child trafficking in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. I believe that all of us working together on the Harkin-Engel Protocol must do much more to both analyze trafficking trends and tackle this issue head on.”

Highlights of the Tulane report:

• Exploitive Child Labor in the Supply Chain: report highlights the need to focus remediation efforts on children exposed to high-risk activities such as the spraying of chemicals.

• The Certification System: The report outlines the need to ensure continued financial commitment by industry to both certification and verification.

• Rehabilitation of Children Withdrawn from Exploitive Child Labor: The report stresses the need to continue assessment of hazardous child labor frameworks and emphasize intervention activities that target reducing exposure to hazardous working conditions.

A full copy of the report can be found here: http://childlabor-payson.org/default.html.