Cocoa Protocol

Cocoa Protocol

The Harkin-Engel Protocol, commonly referred to as the Cocoa Protocol, is an international agreement aimed at ending child labour in the production of cocoa. It was signed in September 2001. As of 2011, it is unclear if the protocol reduced child labor in cocoa production.



Rep. Eliot Engel
Sen. Tom Harkin

In 2001, reports of human trafficking and physical abuse in West African cocoa farming raised concerns. Later that year, U.S. Representative Eliot Engel introduced a legislative amendment to fund the development of a "no child slavery" label for chocolate products sold in the United States. American senator Tom Harkin, a leader in the movement to end abusive child labor worldwide, became involved.

Harkin and Engel worked with the cocoa and chocolate industry to create a protocol formally entitled "Protocol for the growing and processing of cocoa beans and their derivative products in a manner that complies with ILO Convention 182 concerning the prohibition and immediate action for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor." The Protocol was signed in September, 2001, committing the industry to addressing the "worst forms of child labor" and adult forced labor on cocoa farms in West Africa. (see Appendix 1 of[1] for the text of the Protocol). It was witnessed by the heads of 8 major chocolate companies, two U.S. Senators and a member of Congress, the Ambassador of Ivory Coast, the director of the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labor, and officials from Free the Slaves, the Child Labor Coalition, the National Consumers League and the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering and Tobacco Allied Workers Associations (IUF).


The Protocol was a commitment by the industry groups World Cocoa Foundation and Chocolate Manufacturers Association (now known as the Chocolate Council of the National Confectioners Association) to develop and implement voluntary standards to certify cocoa produced without the "worst forms of child labor," (defined according to the International Labor Organization's Convention 182) by July 2005. The agreement laid out a series of date-specific actions, including the development of voluntary standards of public certification. The Protocol did not commit the industry to ending all child labor in cocoa production, only the worst forms of it.

The parties agreed to:

  • Commit "significant resources" to address the problem of force child labor.
  • Form an advisory group by October 2001.
  • Sign a joint statement on the urgency of the problem by December 2001.
  • Establish an action program to enforce standards to eliminate the worst forms of child labor and to establish means to monitor and report on compliance with those standards, by 2002.
  • Establish a non-profit foundation that would bring together industry and non-industry to address the worst forms of child labor in the cocoa supply chain, by 2002.
  • Develop and implement standards of public certification that cocoa has been grown without any of the worst forms of child labor, by July 2005.


The Protocol was hailed as a framework for progress, bringing together industry, West African governments, organized labor, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), farmer groups and experts to raise labor standards. It was said to mark a first - an international industry taking responsibility for addressing labor abuses in its supply chain. However, the protocol was criticized by some, criticism which seems to have been validated by the fact that industry still has not delivered on farm level certification against the worst forms of child labour.

The joint foundation was established, known as the International Cocoa Initiative. Through this foundation, $3 million was spent on pilot projects, detailed in Appendices 4-7 of[1]. In addition, individual companies started their own initiatives. An industry-funded Verification Working Group was begun in 2004.

The Protocol stipulated that by July 2005, the chocolate industry would develop standards of certification. This deadline was not met. An extension of the Protocol was agreed upon, giving industry 3 more years to implement the Protocol.[1] Again, after 3 more years, the key promises of the Protocol have not been met.

The International Labor Rights Fund then filed a lawsuit against Nestle, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland. It was filed in July 2005 under the Alien Tort Claims Act on behalf of a class of Malian children who were trafficked into Côte d'Ivoire and forced to work on cocoa farms for twelve to fourteen hours a day with no pay, little food and sleep, and frequent beatings.

Funding for the Verification Working Group was discontinued in 2006. However, in Summer 2007, the manufacturers contracted another company to fulfill this function.[1]


Ten years after implementation, it is unclear if the protocol had any effect in reducing child labor.[2]

See also


External links

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