The Global Civil Society has urged the cocoa sector to develop transparent and accountable solutions to end child labour in cocoa growing communities.
It called on chocolate and cocoa companies and governments to start living up to their promises of ending child labour in the cocoa sector.
A statement from the Group and copied to the Ghana News Agency said this year marked the 20th anniversary of the chocolate industry’s promise to end child labour in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, a commitment it made under the 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol and renewed in the 2010 Framework of Action.
It said, this year, being the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour, should have been a landmark in the fight against the menace.
Instead, the cocoa sector as a whole had been conspicuously quiet on this topic.
“Child labour is still a reality on West African cocoa farms, and there is strong evidence that forced labour continues in the sector as well,” the statement said.
“Recent reports such as Ghana’s GLSS 7 Survey and the study of the University of Chicago, commissioned by the United States Government, show that close to 1.5 million children are engaged in hazardous or age-inappropriate work on cocoa farms in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.”
The statement said vast majority of child labourers were exposed to the worst forms of child labour, such as carrying heavy loads, working with dangerous tools, and increasing exposure to harmful agrochemicals.
It said after two decades of rhetoric, voluntary initiatives, and pilot projects, it was clearer than ever that ambitious, sector-wide action was needed, coupled with binding regulations, to address both child labour and the poverty that lay at its roots.
These solutions, the statement said, must include regulations for mandatory human rights due diligence for companies operating in all major cocoa consuming countries, including avenues for legal remedy in those companies’ home countries.
“We note with interest the developments around regulations in the EU, although the announced delays are concerning. We also observe that the United States – the world’s number one cocoa consuming country – is particularly lagging in regulatory developments on this issue,” the statement said.
It said the industry could not use a lack of regulation as an excuse not to shoulder its own responsibility.
As such, every chocolate and cocoa company should have a system in place that monitored and remediated child labour in all of their value chains with a child labour risk.
The statement said the impact of those systems must be communicated publicly and transparently in a way that enabled meaningful participation and access to remedy for workers and their representatives.
In parallel, effective partnerships between producer and countries were needed to work on the necessary enabling environment, the statement said.
It said those partnerships must be developed in a more inclusive manner than previous attempts, bringing in civil society organisations, independent trade unions, local communities, and farmer representatives.
Adequate resources must be provided to enable those local actors to participate as equals in the development and implementation of solutions, it said.
Child labour could only be effectively tackled if its root causes were also adequately addressed, the statement said.
As such, the cocoa sector must ensure that child labour approaches were deeply embedded into realistic and ambitious strategies to achieve a living income for all cocoa households, it said.
“Such strategies must include the payment of fair and just remuneration at the farm gate; prices need to be sufficient to provide a living income. There are clear calculations available for Living Income Reference Prices, which are not even close to being met,” the statement said.
“It is time that the cocoa sector lived up to its promises and started to deliver on a sector wide and ambitious plan to tackle child labour and poverty. The industry’s collective silence this year is shameful and inappropriate.”