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Call for Ghana cocoa to be removed from US child labor list

By staff reporter , 03-Dec-2009
Last updated on 03-Dec-2009 at 18:10 GMT

Retention of Ghana produced cocoa on the US Department of Labor’s list of goods produced by child or forced labour could hinder efforts to eliminate the practice, claims a senior politician of the major cocoa supplying country.

Ghana's cocoa is among 122 products from 58 countries listed by the US Department of Labour on its Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2005 (TVPRA List).

The primary purpose of the TVPRA List is to raise public awareness about the incidence of child labour and forced labour in the production of goods in the countries listed and to promote efforts to eliminate such practices.

Ghanian vice president, John Dramani Mahama, said his government had put in place a sound and workable framework for eliminating all worst forms of child labour in the cocoa sector through a multi-sectoral approach.

But, speaking at the second meeting of the International Joint Working Group on Labour in Cocoa Farming in Accra yesterday, Mahama claims that Ghana cocoa’s presence on the US list could be a disincentive for that work to continue, reports the Ghana news agency.

The International Cocoa Verification Board (ICVB), which includes representatives of Mars and the European Cocoa Association, concurs.

A statement on its website claims that the current process of listing all products and all countries in the same manner on the US list can be counterproductive, because it does not recognise specific efforts that have been initiated and that “are in fact making a difference for children within the supply chains in question."

“In fact, inclusion of products on the Executive Order list, with its potential prohibition of purchasing by the US government, may jeopardize the very efforts that are underway to address this critically important issue,” it states.

The ICVB is a non-profit, multi-stakeholder organisation that was convened in 2007 to ensure that certification efforts to evaluate the occurrence of child or forced adult labour in cocoa producing areas in the Ivory Coast and Ghana are independently verified.

The issue of child labour came to the fore in 2001 after a series of media exposes depicted forced child labour and trafficking on West African cocoa farms.

The reports served as a catalyst for calls to purge this issue from the cocoa supply chain, leading to the signing of the Harkin-Engel Protocol in 2001 by leading stakeholders, including cocoa processors and chocolate makers.

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