June 19, 2013 | 07:22 AM (BD Time)
19 June, 2013 Wednesday
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The human cost of chocolate
CNN Online :
It may be unthinkable that the chocolate we enjoy could come from the hands of children working as slaves. In Ivory Coast and other cocoa-producing countries, there are an estimated 100,000 children working the fields, many against their will, to create the chocolate delicacies enjoyed by Western countries.
Ten years ago, two U.S. lawmakers took action to put a stop to child labor in the cocoa industry. Despite pushback from the industry, the Harkin-Engel Protocol, also known as the Cocoa Protocol, was signed into law on September 19, 2001.
On the 10th anniversary of the legislation, CNN takes a look at what effect this protocol has had on the cocoa industry. Here's a primer on some of the major issues surrounding the issue of slave labor in the cocoa industry:
Where does cocoa come from?
Some 70 to 75 percent of the world's cocoa beans are grown on small farms in West Africa, including the Ivory Coast, according to the World Cocoa Foundation and the International Cocoa Initiative.
Does Ivory Coast allow children to work on these farms?
No, child labor is illegal and since the implementation of the Cocoa Protocol in 2001, the chocolate industry along with governments and human rights groups have worked to end the practice. Yet, the U.S. State Department estimates more than 100,000 children are involved in the worst forms of child labor on cocoa farms throughout Ivory Coast. Some are the children of cocoa farmers but many other youths are smuggled into Ivory Coast from Mali and Burkina Faso to work on cocoa plantations, according to the International Labor Rights Forum.
What exactly is the "Cocoa Protocol"?
Ten years ago, U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, introduced legislation mandating a labeling system for chocolate. After the industry raised concerns, a compromise was reached that required chocolate companies to voluntarily certify they had stopped the practice of child labor. The certification process would not involve labeling products "child-labor-free," as initially proposed.
Instead, it calls for public reporting by African governments, establishment of an audit system and poverty remediation by 2005. The deadline had to be extended to 2008 (read Fortune Magazine's report on the state of the protocol in 2008) and again to 2010. Today, many aid groups say some of the provisions have still not been met.
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