ICI, STAKEHOLDERS DISCUSS PARTNERSHIP ON INNOVATIVE APPROACHES TO CHILD LABOUR ELIMINATION
Under the auspices of the Ministry of Employment and labour relations (MELR), the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) and the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) met with other key partners to reflect on the importance and structure for a partnership between stakeholders. The purpose of this partnership is to intensify efforts, consolidate achievements and accelerate the pace of progress on child welfare issues in Ghana’s cocoa sector. This workshop took place at the conference room of the Alisa Hotel in Accra on 2nd and 3rd September.
Stakeholders present included the Executive Director of ICI, Nick Weatherill; the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Honorable Ignatius Baffour Awuah; the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Honorable Cynthia Morrison and the Chief Executive Officer of Cocobod Ghana Honorable Joseph Boahen Aidoo and other representatives from these ministries and Cocobod. Representatives from the Ministry of Education, UNICEF, and International Labour Organisation (ILO) and industry partners such as Hershey’s and Mondelez were also present. Also present from ICI were Matthias Lange, the Foundation’s Director of Program and Policy and Mike Arthur, the Country Director for the office in Ghana. In all there were fifty (50) participants at the meeting.
The meeting looked at harnessing the strengths and willingness of the three key stakeholders in child protection in cocoa; government, industry and civil society, to build a new public-private partnership. This will accelerate progress towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target 8.7. The discussion also aimed to effectively upscale interventions to combat child labour in cocoa communities. Another objective of the meeting was to take stock of the achievements made under the implementation of the second phase of the National Plan of Action in Ghana (NPA 2) since its inception.
In his remarks, Nick Weatherill referred to the meeting as an opportunity for stakeholders to turn the pressure from the international community into something that promotes child protection in the cocoa sector. He stated;
“We have a global cocoa supply chain that links farmers to markets and consumers on the other side of the world who have a seemingly insatiable appetite for the commodities these farmers grow. I believe in the possibility of business, under the right circumstances and with the right incentives, to be a force for good. Today is an opportunity for those of us in the sector to search for solutions and a privileged chance to break new ground in modules and collaborations that drive real impact for children. These modules will also have the potential to stretch way beyond cocoa to influence and change global agriculture, global supply chains, global business and global trade.”
He added that the sector has challenging times ahead where the release of reports from the US Department of Labour and other organisations along with the media scrutiny, will confirm that the issue of child labour is persisting. He went on to add,
“I believe that the best way of handling these challenges is by giving honest and transparent accounts on what we have done till date.” He went on to list some of the innovations and strategies which have been undertaken by the sector players towards eliminating child labour in Ghana.
Nick went on to challenge all stakeholders present to increase their efforts. He said;
“The scope of our collective effort is however modest in comparison to the problem because while we haven’t failed, we haven’t scaled. That is why the second imperative for handling the intensifying scrutiny we are under must be the definition of a plan for what we are going to do next, a new plan that is both credible, based on actions for which we have clear evidence of impact and ambitious to push us far and fast beyond the current coverage and limited results that we are having.”
At the end of the interaction, participants came out with three priority areas under poverty/social protection, education, child protection and child survival which will tackle issues such as strengthening of Ghana’s social welfare system, early child development, monitoring systems, school feeding and advocacy. A Technical Working Group has also been formed. This group is made up of Cocobod, the MELR, WCF, ICI, UNICEF and a representative for the cocoa and chocolate industry. The group has the responsibility of coming out with a statement of intent and collaborative agreement on the priority actions which came out from the discussion.
A similar interaction has been held in Cote D’Ivoire with the child protection stakeholders in that country.