The Chocolate Manufacturers’ Report Card on the Worst Forms of Child Labor.

(Note: There’s a lot of data here, but I suggest reading through it to get to the conclusion at the end of this post).

Ten years ago, the Chocolate Manufacturers signed the Cocoa Protocol, an international agreement aimed at ending child labor in the production of cocoa. The reason they did so was that it was becoming apparent that many of the cocoa beans that were being sold by the cocoa commodity brokers, and were being purchased by representatives from the likes of Mars, Hershey’s, Guittard, and Archer Daniels Midland, were grown and/or processed by children, some of whom were no better than slaves on the plantations where they toiled.

This Protocol was designed to develop and implement voluntary standards to certify cocoa produced without the “worst forms of child labor,” (defined according to the International Labor Organization’s Convention 182). The Protocol had six articles, which required the following:

Article 1:
a) Commit significant resources
b) Acknowledge Problem

Article 2:
Form a Multi-Sectoral Advisory Group to:
a) Research labor practices
b) Formulate appropriate remedies

Article 3:
Issue Joint Statement recognizing the need to:
a) End the Worst Forms of Child Labor.
b) Identify positive developmental alternatives for children removed from the worst forms of child labor in the cocoa sector.

Article 4:
Sign a binding Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) among major stake holders for:
a) Research
b) Information Exchange
c) Action to enforce the internationally-recognized and mutually agreed standards
d) Independent means of monitoring and public reporting on compliance with those standards

Article 5:
Establish joint foundation to execute:
a) Field Projects
b) Clearinghouse on best practices to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.

Article 6:
Develop an implement credible, mutually-acceptable, voluntary, industry wide standards of public certification.

A joint foundation, called the International Cocoa Initiative, was soon established, and an industry-funded Verification Working Group was begun in 2004, whose goal was to oversee the commitment to the Protocol.

So. How did they do in regard to supporting their commitment?

Well, first, the Verification Working Group was disbanded in 2006. By 2007. The Payson Center for International Development and Technology Transfer of Tulane University, was tapped to fulfill the Verification Working Group role. In March of this year, after several reports, they released the Final Report on the Status of Public and Private Efforts to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labor (WFCL) in the Cocoa Sectors of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. Their summary?

Industry’s and other funding of ICI and other initiatives has not been sufficient in light of its commitment to eliminate WFCL (the worst forms of child labor) in the cocoa sectors of Ghana and Cote d’Ivorie as per Articile 1 of the Protocol. In Addition, other important provisions of the Protoocol have not yet been realized. For example, in Article 6, a key tenet of the Protocol with a 2005 deadline, Industry agreed to “develop and implement credible, mutually-acceptable, voluntary, industry-wide standards of public certification…that cocoa beans and their derivative products have been grown and/or processed without any of the WFCL” (Harkin-Engel Protocol 2001). Yet to date, Industry has only partly developed and not enforced industry-wide standards upholding ILO Convention 182 in the cocoa sectors of Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana. Tulane’s Fourth Annual Report featured an in-depth examiniation of Industry’s “certification” model, comparing and contrasting it to existing, credible certification methodologies and internationally accepted norms guiding the certification domain. Based on our analysis, we conclude the Industry’s “certification” model does not yet conform with ISO 65 standards of certification. Industry has only partly established bodies with the appropriate mandate, and has not finalized the required processes to develop a “credible” certification system. While recent individiual cocoa/chocolate company commitments to selct product certifiers – which have developed and are monitoring production standards of producers providing credible assurance that ILO Convention 182 is being upheld – is a large step in the right direction, the present level of Industry engagement of product certifiers allows these certifiers to cover only a small fraction of cocoa producing regions in each country.

The emphasis above is my own. My interpretation of the summary? They are saying in the most professional way possible “Not only have you not done a whole heck of a lot, what you have done doesn’t do all that much.”

Additionally, they revisit the articles, and give status on where they are at:

Article 1:

a) Commit significant resources – Insufficient
b) Acknowledge Problem – Yes

Article 2:
Form a Multi-Sectoral Advisory Group to:
a) Research labor practices – Yes, in part
b) Formulate appropriate remedies – No

Article 3:
Issue Joint Statement recognizing the need to:
a) End the Worst Forms of Child Labor. – Yes
b) Identify positive developmental alternatives for children removed from the worst forms of child labor in the cocoa sector. – No

Article 4:
Sign a binding Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) among major stake holders for:
a) Research – Yes
b) Information Exchange – Yes
c) Action to enforce the internationally-recognized and mutually agreed standards – No
d) Independent means of monitoring and public reporting on compliance with those standards – No

Article 5:
Establish joint foundation to execute:
a) Field Projects – Yes
b) Clearinghouse on best practices to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. – No

Article 6:
Develop an implement credible, mutually-acceptable, voluntary, industry wide standards of public certification. – No

The report then goes on to say that due to working in a competitive environment, the members of the Chocolate Manufacturers Association may find it “impossible to effectively self-regulate an ultimately overcome the human rights issue of child labor at the root of their supply chain.”

Think about that for a moment – This report, written at the behest of the chocolate companies who signed the Protocol, states that these same chocolate companies may be so self interested in profits, that they cannot (and by inference, will not) ensure that that the cocoa they purchase was not grown or processed using the worst forms of child labor , i.e. child slavery.

…at least not without government oversight.

I am stunned.