Harkin-Engel Cocoa Protocol – 10th Anniversary

26 septiembre 2011



Monday, 19 September 2011 marked the ten-year anniversary of the signing of the Harkin-Engel Protocol, an agreement by the largest chocolate companies to eliminate unacceptable child labour practices in the growing and harvesting of West African cocoa, which supplies most of the world with cocoa beans. In 2010, the US Department of Labor’s Cocoa Oversight Body, Tulane University’s Final Annual Report suggested, among other things, that product certification provides credible assurance that cocoa is being produced in line with ILO Convention 182.

Since 2009, Fairtrade International has been re-evaluating and adjusting its producer support and standards based product certification approach to substantively contribute to this important global effort and ensure increased wellbeing of West African children and their communities in the cocoa sector. 

Standards and certification

The Fairtrade Standards’ requirements on child labour reflect the International Labour Organization (ILO) minimum age and prohibition of the worst forms of child labour conventions.  They also reflect the guiding principles of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), especially the “Best Interests of the Child” principle and note that these should be given primary consideration when child labour is or at risk of being detected.

Accordingly, Fairtrade has changed its guidance text in the Generic Fairtrade Standard for Small Producer Organizations to ensure that child protection measures are used to identify, remediate and prevent child labour.  For instance, the Guidance on this aspect of the Standard includes a call for adopting a child rights approach to address child labour, including partnerships with expert organizations to ensure the immediate and continued protection of children.  Further, it notes that when there is a high likelihood of child labour occurring, producers are encouraged to address this and include actions in their Fairtrade Development Plan, giving primary consideration to the guiding protection principles of the UNCRC.  

Fairtrade offers an ISO-65 accredited certification system which inspects producer organizations against these requirements. No person or certification system can provide a 100% guarantee that a product is free of child labour. However, what Fairtrade guarantees is that if we find breaches to our child labour requirements, we take immediate action to protect impacted children, prevent the impacted farms using child labour from entering the Fairtrade system, and support them and their communities to tackle the problem. The certifier ensures that all corrective action taken by the producer organization follows child protection guidelines as stipulated in the Fairtrade Standards.  

Training Fairtrade Staff and Consultants

Fairtrade has completed the first of three phases of child labour and child protection training to its relevant staff at Fairtrade International’s headquarters and in producer countries, including liaison officers in all its global areas of operations which include North, East, West and Southern Africa, Middle East, South and Central America, the Caribbean and Asia.  It has engaged the child rights organization Plan Canada to assist in some of these trainings. The second phase of training on child-inclusive community-led monitoring on child labour will commence in the second quarter of 2012 and will be targeted to countries and commodities of risk as indicated in the U.S. Department of Labor List of Goods Produced by Child Labour or Forced Labour, among others. 

Training Auditors

In 2009, Fairtrade International, on request of the Fairtrade certifier FLO-CERT, offered introductory training to the West African certification team, including auditors, on child rights approaches and methodologies to identifying child labour and child appropriate policies and projects for remediating it.  We have continued to work with the certifier to ensure that our approaches to child labour are consistent with recommended child protection guidelines.

Supporting child inclusive, community-led monitoring on child labour in Fairtrade farming communities

Fairtrade International and Plan International with Plan Canada set up a partnership to work together to strengthen protection against harm for children identified in hazardous labour. The two organizations came together on June 12, 2011, the World Day Against Child Labour, to begin work on developing a joint community-led monitoring system with an instruction manual to enable producer communities to tackle the issue of hazardous child labour. The training manual will support producers and their communities to self-monitor and assess that their labour practices conform to Fairtrade standards on child labour and child protection. Through awareness-raising, observation, data collection and assessment, discussion and action, the manual aims at increasing local interests in improving children’s wellbeing in both Fairtrade and non-Fairtrade communities. 

In 2009, we provided Fairtrade cocoa farming communities with introductory child labour and child protection training in Cote d’Ivoire, and offered training on child rights guidelines and methodologies to community-based child labor monitors in Ghana’s Fairtrade cocoa cooperative. We attended the launch of Kuapa Kokoo farmer cooperative’s child labour program in Ghana in November 2010, where various relevant government representatives and locally-based NGOs were present.  

Engaging Fairtrade partners, child rights organizations & government

We seek the advice and guidance from expert international non-governmental organizations to ensure the rights of children are upheld, including their right to live in a safe and protective environment. 

In July 2010 we sought feedback from experts and Fairtrade partners including industry at a stakeholder forum in we hosted in Bonn and received their recommendations for developing a rights-based framework for eliminating child labour in West Africa cocoa production.  In March 2011, we hosted a producer-facilitated forum in Ghana with cocoa producer representatives from Ghana and Cameroon to receive recommendations from their communities on our approach to child labour elimination.  In October, 2011, we will launch a similar forum in Cote d’Ivoire to obtain input from cocoa producers and their communities, including children and young people. 

Fairtrade International’s Senior Advisor on Social Compliance and Development and our West African producer services team met with representatives from the Ghana offices of ILO, the Ministry of Employment and Manpower and locally based NGOs to discuss our approach and possible joint program partnerships. 

We were invited by the US Government and Tulane University to join other key stakeholders to discuss findings of the Oversight Body and provide suggestions into the Cocoa Framework of Action launched by the US government in 2010.  We briefed government officials in the US and EU on Fairtrade’s approach to child labor and child protection and our plans for producer support to increase wellbeing of children and youth in Fairtrade cocoa producing communities. We also provided formal input to the US government Cocoa Oversight Body seeking to learn about our standards based, ISO 65 accredited certification approach to addressing child labour issues in the West African cocoa sector.

Engaging children in Fairtrade communities, a special focus on gender

Fairtrade International held focus groups with 48 school-going girls and boys in cocoa growing communities in the Western Region in Ghana with the support of Kuapa Kokoo and PLAN Canada in March 2011.  We heard from girls and boys about their education, work, future aspirations and the impact of Fairtrade on their lives – essential input as we develop our proactive approach to increased wellbeing of girls and boys and young people in Fairtrade communities. This October, we will interview roughly 50 girls and boys in cocoa communities in Côte d’Ivoire to similarly learn from them about their well being.

Addressing root causes of child labour

Child labour is not only a problem perpetuated by poverty and unfair terms of trade, it is also a result of exploitation, lack of access to quality education and social protection, discrimination, conflict, HIV/AIDS and natural disasters, among others . Fairtrade focuses on strengthening the position of farmers and workers in international supply chains, supporting them to become organized within their communities and to earn a better deal from the sale of their produce. Through Fairtrade, farmers organizations are able to earn an additional Fairtrade Premium of $200/tonne that they can use to improve their business and build community programs, from awareness-raising on issues of child labour to helping increase the availability and quality of local schooling. Paying farmers a fairer price for their cocoa is crucial for moving away from a reliance on child labour in the long term.

Beyond cocoa

Fairtrade has chosen to work in products and regions with known risk of child labour because this is where our work is most needed. We are also conducting focus groups with children in Asia.

Dedicated Resource to Addressing Child Labour

We hired a full time staff member to work on child labour and related issues and will hire a child labour officer in the West African region to support ongoing work on these issues.

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