The Harkin-Engel Protocol

In September 2001, global chocolate and cocoa industry representatives signed an agreement, developed in partnership with United States Senator Harkin and Representative Engel, working towards the elimination of the worst forms of child labor in the growing of cocoa beans and their derivative products from West Africa.The agreement, known as the “Harkin-Engel Protocol,” laid out a series of date-specific actions working to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. Key actions included:

  • Development of a “public certification” system for cocoa farming – a credible, mutually acceptable, voluntary process which would give a public accounting of labor practices in cocoa farming. The certification system has been developed. Learn more.
  • A commitment to establish a joint international foundation to serve as a clearinghouse on best practices to eliminate child labor and drive remediation efforts on the ground. The foundation has been formed and is called the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI). Learn more.

The Protocol has been an important catalyst for change in the labor practices within the cocoa sectors of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana and has successfully focused international attention, effort, and resources in support of cocoa families and children.

In addressing a complex societal and developmental challenge in a rural agricultural context in the developing world, the Protocol has represented an historic and ambitious platform for change. Building on the lessons learned over the past decade, on September 13th 2010, industry, the United States Department of Labor, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, U.S. Representative Eliot Engel, the Government of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, and the Government of the Republic of Ghana signed a Joint Declaration and accompanying Framework of Action to Support the Implementation of the Harkin–Engel Protocol. The Framework has as its goal to reduce the worst forms of child labor as defined in ILO Convention 182 in the cocoa producing areas of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana by 70 percent in aggregate by 2020 through the joint efforts of the stakeholders.

Progress to Date
The industry has worked closely with Senator Harkin and Representative Engel to meet benchmarks defined in the Protocol. It is no small task – no group has ever before attempted to report on labor conditions across an entire agricultural sector in the developing world.

The Protocol deadlines were linked to achieving a sector-wide certification process in cocoa farming production in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. Reports on labor conditions in both countries were published by July 2008 and verification of the data was completed by January 2010. Building on these activities, the Framework of Action in Support of the Implementation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol intends to accelerate efforts to reduce the worst forms of child labor.

Over the past decade, the industry has spent more than $75 million on activities related to the reduction of the worst forms of child labor in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, including $18 million for the International Cocoa Initiative, the foundation set up under the Protocol. Industry has also committed $7 million to further the goals of the Framework of Action. This industry partnership includes the participation of ADM, Barry Callebaut, Cargill, Ferrero, The Hershey Company, Kraft Foods, Mars Incorporated, and Nestlé.

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