Apr 11 2012
Child labour in chocolate industry leaves a bitter taste
Many children are forced to work in appalling conditions on cocoa plantations instead of being educated – and, as the world’s biggest consumer of chocolate, the EU has a responsibility to tackle the problem.
As a Member of the Parliament’s International Trade Committee I recently took part in a debate on the latest International Cocoa Agreement and stressed the industry needed to go much further in improving working conditions – an industry that made over 700 billion euros in the past decade, has spent only 0.0075% on investing in the conditions of its workers.
Human rights clauses continue to be a key issue in the European Parliament’s consideration of many EU free trade agreements. Earlier this year, parliament refused to give consent to an upgrade in trade relations with Uzbekistan because of the appalling situation where adults and children are forced and threatened into working in the cotton fields during the harvest.
In giving consent to the International Cocoa Agreement, the Parliament passed a separate resolution calling for a renewed effort to address and ultimately bring an end to many forms of child labour.
If we are serious about ending child exploitation we need to address the root causes of child labour in Africa. In villages and rural areas dominated by one sector alternative jobs are scarce offering little alternative for children and families living in extreme poverty. Tackling this needs a broad strategy addressing a wide variety of fundamental problems – the international rights of the child, compulsory education, development assistance, fair trade, economic diversification and global cooperation against trafficking.
The political will is there greatly aided by the support of consumers increasingly turning to fair trade chocolate for ethical reasons. But ultimately it will need the commitment of the chocolate industry to use its power and its profits to clean up its supply chain.