The global chocolate and cocoa industry have pledged US$7m to support moves to combat child and forced labour on farms in west Africa.

The investment came as a “framework of action” was unveiled in Washington yesterday (13 September) to promote responsible cocoa farming in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.

The so-called framework will support the Harkin-Engel Protocol, named after two US lawmakers and signed in 2001 to address the “worst forms of child labour” in cocoa farming.

“Improving the lives of children and adults in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana is a matter of shared responsibility for all those involved, and our industry is fully committed to helping even more cocoa farming families through this innovative partnership,” said Larry Graham, president of the National Confectioners Association.

Some $2m of the cash will support a new public-private partnership led by the International Labor Organisation’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labor (ILO-IPEC). The other $5m includes the expansion of “significant current industry work on cocoa which has demonstrated the value of partnerships of this nature”, a statement said.

In addition, the chocolate and cocoa industry is making a further pledge to “explore the possibility of committing an additional $3m” for remediation activities that further these goals.

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The announcement in Washington came as NGOs and human rights groups slammed Hershey for its record on sourcing cocoa and accused the US chocolate giant of using cocoa from farms that used child and forced labour.