News 11 June 2014

Children’s rights key to cocoa sustainability says ICI

At least one million children in cocoa-growing communities in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana should have a better future by the end of 2020, according to the International Cocoa Initiative, a leader in child protection in cocoa.

A unique partnership between chocolate companies, civil society organisations and cocoa-producing governments, ICI has launched its 2015-2020 Strategy on World Day Against Child Labour at the World Cocoa Conference in Amsterdam. The event unites the global cocoa sector and comes on the heels of the recent launch of CocoaAction, a collective commitment by the chocolate and cocoa industry to ensure sustainable cocoa production and improved well-being of cocoa farmers in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.

Putting the future of children at the heart of cocoa sustainability, ICI’s Strategy will guide the Organisation and its partners in their work to scale up a refined ICI model for child protection in cocoa communities. This effort should be based on principles of collective action and shared responsibility where anyone deriving profit, revenue or pleasure from chocolate should be contributing to a more sustainable supply of its raw material.

“We’ve cracked the model for helping kids and their families in the communities where ICI works, “ says Professor Kevin Bales, co-founder of Free the Slaves, and founding board member of ICI. “But we shouldn’t forget how fragile this success is, how vulnerable these children are and how many more are at risk; we need nothing short of a sector-wide push to protect children in all cocoa communities, and ICI’s new strategy shows us how to make this happen . ”

In spite of a significant increase in efforts and real progress made in recent years, child labour is still a prevalent problem in the cocoa sector. It is estimated that one to two in every ten children in cocoa-growing communities is still engaged in some form of child labour in the two Western Africa countries, which together account for more than 60 percent of the world’s cocoa production.

According to ICI the solution lies in putting child protection at the heart of cocoa sustainability efforts. Cocoa-growing communities need to have in place effective local child protection capacities, including schools, health centers and social services. Cocoa farmers need to work within a supply chain that lifts them out of poverty, and that identifies and addresses the risk of child labour responsibly and appropriately.

ICI’S new strategy builds on its experience from the last 12 years, during which time it has assisted 890 cocoa-growing communities, benefiting more than 1 million people, more than half of whom were children. As a result of ICI’s operations and its community empowerment efforts, more than 50 000 of those children gained improved access to quality education. According to ICI’s newly launched Annual Report, last year alone the Organisation reached 570,000 people in a total of 720 cocoa-growing communities.

Over the next six years, ICI will directly intervene in 360 communities in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, and will contribute to improved child protection in another 1440 communities by influencing and assisting the actions of its various partners, helping over 1 million children.

“There is both a value case and a business case for keeping children’s rights and child protection central to the changes happening in the cocoa sector. Children are the ones most harmed by unsustainable practices and they are also the farmers of tomorrow,” says Nick Weatherill, ICI’s Executive Director.

Speaking at the World Cocoa Conference yesterday, Weatherill called for increased protection of children in cocoa growing communities, explaining how ICI’s new strategy, endorsed by all its member companies and civil society organisations, gives it a pivotal role in contributing to a more sustainable cocoa economy.

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