Stop the Traffik is extremely disappointed that Kevin Bales has posted such an aggressive and unhelpful response to the Stop the Traffik campaign (https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=3666055403717960332&postID=6227638341898591219). Stop the Traffik stands by all we have said and will continue to fight for the independent certification of cocoa in Ivory Coast, to end child trafficking in that country, a problem which the chocolate industry, governments and NGOs all recognise as a serious issue.
Recently Stop the Traffik met with the head of the International Cocoa Initiative, Peter McAllister, the organisation that Kevin Bales sits on the board of and whose activities he promotes in his posting. At the meeting McAllister promised to publicly endorse the Stop the Traffik campaign. He also described us as taking what could be complimentary approaches to the same end of stopping human trafficking; the ICI working with industry, while Stop the Traffik works to hold them to account. We are therefore very surprised to see, instead of an endorsement, a public attack by an ICI board member.
The ICI admits that there is a problem with child trafficking in the cocoa industry in Ivory Coast. It is working to establish projects to help communities combat this problem, but has not received the backing of Industry to the extent that it can make a significant impact. According to latest reports, the ICI has reached 88 communities in Ivory Coast so far, since the problem of slavery in cocoa production was highlighted in 2001. Given that there are 600,000 cocoa farms in Ivory Coast, this seems like good work, on a small scale. Is it a safety net for children as Mr Bales claims? No, sadly it is not. Is slavery being eradicated in village after village across the region? Sadly, despite the valiant efforts of the ICI, it is no where near making that sort of progress. As Aidan McQuade, director of Anti Slavery International recently said, “Now the industry needs to put its money where its mouth is, to get West African children off farms and back into school where they belong.”
Crucially, Mr Bales makes no mention at all of the certification process, which is curious given that it is the centre-piece of the Harkin/Engel protocol, the agreement Industry signed up to in order to try to end the worst forms of child labour including human trafficking, in the cocoa supply chain. It was from this agreement that the ICI was born. The protocol promised that “Industry, in partnership with other major stakeholders will develop and implement credible, mutually acceptable, voluntary, industry-wide standards of public certification, consistent with applicable federal law, that cocoa beans and their derivative products have been grown and/or processed without any of the worst forms of child labour”. In other words, industry promised to ensure that only farms which were certified as free from trafficked labour could supply the cocoa that makes our chocolate.
Without industry's fulfilment of this promise, slavery will never be eradicated from the cocoa industry. Industry promised to deliver this by July 2005, it failed. Now they are changing the definition of certification so it becomes a mere survey. This is not good enough, and must be very disappointing for the work of Mr Bales and the ICI.
Stop the Traffik is committed to ending the trafficking of thousands of children who work on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast. The ordinary cocoa farmer is not involved in exploiting children, but significant numbers of children are being abused. We invite Kevin Bales to stand with us and other serious organisations, in calling for farm level certification of cocoa beans to show that the cocoa supply chain is free from trafficked labour. There is movement already towards this, with Cargill, Nestlé and Mars joining with the certification organisation UTZ, to try to find a way forward outside of the Harkin/Engel protocol. There is a long way to go on this, but we believe that we should work together to make sure that Industry fulfils its obligations so that the work of many organisations, governments and individuals is not in vain.
Chair of Stop the Traffik
UN.GIFT Special Advisor on Community Action against Human Trafficking.