European initiative calls for legislation against child labour on the cocoa fields

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On March 12, a European resolution has been voted to call for concrete measures against child labour in the cocoa fields. More than ten years after the American initiative to eliminate child labour on the cocoa fields, the European Parliament denounces these breaches of human rights and suggests actions to tackle the issue. 10 campaign welcomes this initiative and calls for legally binding measures, not only for countries, but also for companies.

More than ten years ago, in 2001, the Harkin-Engel protocol was launched in the United States. The protocol was a promise amongst government and the cocoa and chocolate industry to eliminate the worst forms of child labour by 2005. Over the last years, some projects were initiated, but research on the ground provided evidence that not much progress was made (Tulane 2011). Today, finally the European Union awakes and clearly speaks out on this issue. This resolution unambiguously calls for the full implementation of the Harkin-Engel protocol.

The resolution, prepared by the International Trade Committee of the European Parliament, explains the issue in the cocoa sector quite well. It mentions the seriousness of the issue and takes a clear position: ‘The European Parliament severely condemns the use of child labour on the cocoa farms.’ Several demands are voiced to undertake concrete action against child labour. The resolution calls for ratification and implementation of the relevant ILO-conventions. Additionally, the EU urges states involved in the supply chain to sensitize their people about the abuse of children in the cocoa sector. As for their trade agreements with other states or regions, the European Parliament voted in favour of the proposal to make provisions on poverty and decent work. Unambiguously, the resolution calls for legally-binding clauses on human rights, social and environmental standards and their enforcement, with measures in the event of infringement.

However, there are still urgent actions underexposed in the resolution. The proposed actions are mainly targeting other states. Nevertheless, it is necessary that, at the European level, legally-binding measures are also outlined for other stakeholders in the supply chain, such as the private sector. Since the industry has not taken responsibility for carrying out the necessary reform from within, it is necessary for the EU to demand a minimum standard of compliance of companies and require due diligence in their supply chain. As “Corporate Social Responsibility” has apparently failed in the case of the cocoa sector, we demand that there be “Corporate Social Accountability” to achieve ethical and sustainable cocoa sourcing.

Still, the resolution is good enough to be supported. The European Parliament denounces these breaches of human rights, points out the seriousness of the issue in the cocoa sector and calls for concrete action. With the resolution being approved by the European Parliament, 10 campaign will monitor closely how the Harkin-Engel protocol will be implemented and will push further for legally-binding measures for companies in the cocoa supply chain.