Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Are words all we have? - on EP's resolution on child labour in cocoa sector

Today the European Parliament passed a resolution aimed at increasing awareness of the problem of child labour in cocoa fields (Chocolate without the guild of child labour). The EU is the world's leading consumer of chocolate (40% of world's cocoa) and home to many major chocolate manufacturers. While they enjoy consumption of delicious chocolate products, not many Europeans stop to wonder about the process of its production. We may know that chocolate is made of cocoa, but would anyone gather a guess that it is over 215 million children worldwide that are used as child labourers (according to the ILO's estimations) and many of these children work in cocoa fields? The resolution of the European Parliament calls on everyone in the cocoa value chain (not only cocoa growers, but also governments, traders and consumers) to be aware of forced child labour and child trafficking and to fight it. Of course, not all children work can be classified as child labour and many children work to help their families survive in Africa. However, certain studies conducted in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire suggest that children working on cocoa farms may suffer from exposition to pesticides and may have been trafficked. 

Unfortunately, the new International Cocoa Agreement that was approved today by the European Parliament does not address a problem of child labour. Since it is the main commodity agreement between cocoa exporters and importers, one could expect that a provision on detecting whether goods are produced by forced child labour and prohibiting trade of such goods could be the most effective if it were included in this agreement. The resolution expresses nice ideas, but they remain just ideas as long as they are included in non-binding documents. After all, in the past the European Parliament had even called for a ban on child labour in trade, not to mention for an introduction of "child labour free" product labelling. It's only words...

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