Published: 22/07/2002

This new Foundation, formally established in Geneva earlier this month, is an initiative to address the conditions in cocoa-growing that lead to the exploitation of children and the worst forms of child labour. It brings together the IUF, the majority of employers in the global chocolate and cocoa industry and three NGO’s: the Global March Against Child Labour, Free the Slaves and the National Consumer League (USA).

“The International Cocoa Initiative – working towards responsible labour standards for cocoa growing” will be based in Switzerland and will be staffed and operational by the beginning of 2003.

IUF general secretary Ron Oswald has been elected as co-president, with the coordinator of the industry grouping, John Claringbould, a senior executive of the Mars Company, acting as the other Foundation co-president. The Foundation will be overseen by a fourteen member Board composed of seven industry representatives and seven from the non-industry constituents of the Foundation. Trade union members of the Board are the IUF general secretary, a representative of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and a representative of the IUF’s affiliate in the Ivory Coast. The International Labour Organization (ILO) will act as advisor to the Foundation Board.

The Foundation emerges from a lengthy process of negotiations following allegations involving the use of forced and child labour in cocoa-growing in the Ivory Coast. Key players in this process have included Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Engel from the US Congress, the government of the Ivory Coast, the International Labour Organization (ILO), IUF affiliates and a number of NGO’s.

Once in operation the Foundation will initiate practical research and projects to work towards achieving the goal expressed in the Foundation Statutes: “The Foundation aims to oversee and sustain efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labour and forced labour in the growing and processing of cocoa beans and their derivative products.”

Upon signing the statutes, IUF general secretary Ron Oswald commented, “The International Cocoa Initiative represents a good faith effort by industry, in cooperation with the IUF and others, to address in a responsible, long-term and practical manner the unacceptable use of child labour and related issues in cocoa-growing. I am confident that considerable and sufficient industry resources will be invested to ensure the Foundation has the tools it needs to fully carry out its tasks.” Oswald went on to add, “This initiative represents our best opportunity to ensure a meaningful and positive impact on the appalling poverty, and all that goes with it, that farmers and workers in the cocoa-growing sector too-often face around the world. We must work to make this initiative effective and each of its constituents carries a heavy responsibility to show that working jointly in this way can bring measurable and concrete results. We face a long process but we are committed to seeking constant improvement through the International Cocoa Initiative. The ultimate judges of the effectiveness of our efforts will be those suffering from the existing situation.”

The first meeting of the full Foundation Board is scheduled for September 17 in Geneva, Switzerland.