A coalition of confectionery groups has said it is on target to meet the terms laid out under the so-called “Harkin-Engel Protocol”, aimed at addressing the worst forms of child labour and forced adult labour in West African cocoa cultivation.

Various groups in the US and EU, including the National Confectioners Association in the US (NCA) and the EU Association of the Chocolate, Biscuit & Confectionery Industries (CAOBISCO), have committed to the Protocol.

Under the terms of the Protocol by 1 July 2008, both Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana will have a certification data collection process in place across an area that produces at least 50% of their cocoa; both countries will have released reports, based on data collected from the above process, that provide a frank, detailed assessment of labour conditions (and related issues) on cocoa farms and in cocoa farming communities; industry will have substantially exceeded the US$15m financial commitment it made in 2005 funding a wide range of programmes to help cocoa farming families and to support the implementation of certification; and an independent verification effort will be in place and active – with independent verifiers on the ground in West Africa evaluating survey findings and visiting cocoa farms.

The coalition confirmed that all these stipulations would be met by the 1 July deadline, with the exception of the setting-up of the independent verification system, which will not be fully completed until the end of the year.

The data collection element of the certification process is being undertaken by the two producer country governments. Joanna Scott, a spokesperson for the cocoa industry in Europe, said that the coalition expected the reports to be published by those governments on or before the 1 July deadline.

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In a statement, Representative Eliot Engel, who along with Senator Tom Harkin pushed for the setting-up of the Protocol and the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), which runs programmes in the producer countries aimed at tackling child and forced adult labour, expressed satisfaction with the progress that had been made.

“During my recent trip to Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, I was impressed by the work being done by the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI). The ICI is not only sensitising communities about the hazards of child and forced adult labour, but is also working to promote the important role of quality education in childhood development,” Representative Engel said.

However, he called for the work of the ICI to be scaled up in order to build on the progress that had been made. “If we are to make real progress in eliminating the worst forms of child labour and forced adult labour in the cocoa industry, I believe that the ICI must now substantially scale up its efforts in both Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. I look forward to working with all of the stakeholders to ensure that ICI efforts are deepened over the next year.”

Senator Harkin said he was hopeful that the industry would “redouble its efforts to increase its contributions to the ICI to effectively deal with remediation needs”.

In the next two to three years, further commitments on the part of the cocoa industry are to include working with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to have a sector-wide independently verified certification process fully in place across each country’s cocoa-growing sector by the end of 2010; working closely with and assisting the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana as they target and coordinate remediation efforts, based on the results from the certification data reports; deepening corporate support for the ICI as the foundation expands to additional communities in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana; and further strengthening government capacity at the national level, and educating key stakeholders in the cocoa supply chain on safe, responsible labour practices.