News 7 February 2019

Addressing Forced Labour in cocoa: what needs to be done?

Cocoa tree with pods

A new report on the drivers of forced labour in the cocoa sector of Côte d’Ivoire has identified the most at-risk groups and highlighted ways in which governments, the private sector and civil society can all prevent labour abuses, as well as identify and assist victims. According to the report, migrant workers who have recently gone into debt to secure their recruitment are the most likely population group to be exploited as forced labourers.

Commissioned by ICI and its member companies, the research was conducted by Verité, a US-based NGO with expertise in assessing and addressing forced labour and trafficking in global supply chains.  The report also integrates recent findings from other studies and reflects on the evolving regulatory environment, concluding with recommendations for action by different stakeholders to help tackle forced labour risks in the cocoa supply chain.

We welcome Verité’s report and its constructive recommendations. This report is timely and important as it helps shine a spotlight on human trafficking and forced labour in the cocoa supply chain, a serious but elusive human rights issue that affects many state governments and global supply chains,” said Joha Braimah, ICI’s Board Member and Director of Free the Slaves in Ghana.

A separate 2018 Walk Free Foundation study assessing the prevalence of forced labour in cocoa found that an estimated 2,000 children in Côte d’Ivoire and 14,000 children in Ghana experienced forced labour between 2013 and 2017. Additionally, the study found an estimated 3,700 adults in Ghana and nearly 10 000 adults in Côte d’Ivoire who experienced forced labour during the same time period.

Both the findings of the Walk Free Foundation study and those in the Verité assessment report are conclusive that poverty, price volatility in cocoa, low levels of education, the nature of small-scale farming and limitations in law enforcement are root-cause factors that drive forced labour.

ICI and its members recognise forced labour as a real, localised risk in the cocoa supply-chain, and as a serious issue which merits close attention and decisive action. The recommendations in the report are aimed primarily at the Government of Côte d’Ivoire and at private sector chocolate and cocoa companies as the main actors responsible for protecting and respecting the rights of children and workers, according to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Supporting financial literacy initiatives, strengthening law enforcement, increasing workers’ awareness of their rights and employers’ awareness of their responsibilities, and reinforcing the organisation of farmers are some of the recommended actions in the report.

Informed by these recent studies, and in line with the willingness and engagement of its members, ICI recently revised its work plan and strategy to support specific interventions that prevent, detect and respond to forced labour risks.

Over the next two years, ICI will review and adapt its existing supply-chain monitoring tools to better capture forced labour risks in high-risk areas. In addition, ICI will work with supply-chain actors, communities and local authorities to design grievance mechanisms adapted to the hidden nature of potential labour exploitations in remote rural areas. In order to help prevent forced labour, ICI will also revise its training and awareness-raising materials targeted to cocoa-growing communities and supply-chain actors. Finally, ICI will work with government services and specialized NGOs to strengthen their support for workers and children in or at risk of forced labour. Results and lessons learned from these activities will be reviewed on ICI’s collective learning platform and shared publicly to inform the whole sector’s response to this critical issue.

We’re pleased to have been able to develop a set of actionable recommendations for relevant actors to address the problem of forced labour in strategic, targeted ways. We look forward to working with ICI’s multi-stakeholder platform to promote the uptake and implementation of these solutions throughout the cocoa sector, “ said Shawn MacDonald, CEO, Verité.

Download the full study, the Executive Summary and the recommendations for action here

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