International Cocoa Initiative creates study on monitoring child labour within the sector

The International Cocoa Initiative (ICI) has delivered a new study aiming to create operational definition of a Child labour monitoring and remediation systems (CLMRS), to establish a framework that will monitor progress, reports Neill Barston.

Its move comes in the wake of a recent study from NORC at the University of Chicago found in its research on the issue that there are still 1.5 million minors exposed to child labour in key producing markets of Ghana and Ivory Coast.

As the initiative, which is a non-profit multi-stakeholder organisation, explained, its latest initiative was commissioned by the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa, and has set a core goal of transparent reporting on this major issue.

Significantly, 2021 has been established as the year of eradicating child labour by the UN, but with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic impacting on agricultural communities around the world, work on achieving this will be severely challenged.

Historic schemes

As ICI noted, CLMRS schemes were first put in motion by the International Labour Organisation two decades ago, and later adapted for use in the cocoa sector. Since then, their use to identify, monitor, address and prevent child labour has expanded greatly.

According to the charity, these systems are estimated to cover around 25% of the cocoa supply chain in Ivory Coast and Ghana and their expansion is set to continue. Industry and multi-stakeholder bodies, including the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), and several national platforms for sustainable cocoa in Europe, have all pledged to scale up their coverage.

In tandem, civil society groups have called for the expansion of these systems while underlining the need for clear standard definitions and benchmarks. In a recent collaborative study, which proposes CLMRS definitions and indicators, ICI, European cocoa platforms and their members aim to foster greater harmonisation and alignment to catalyse the scale up of effective systems to cover 100% of cocoa households in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana by 2025.

Commissioned by the Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa, the study aims to encourage alignment in the way these systems are implemented and to promote transparent reporting on coverage and performance. Throughout the process of conducting this review, input and feedback were sought from the Swiss, German, Dutch and Belgian Platforms for sustainable cocoa and their members, who have validated the findings and the operational definition.

ICI began by mapping existing systems to prevent, monitor and address child labour in the cocoa sector. Using information provided by governments, industry, civil society, international organisations, and multi-stakeholder initiatives, the mapping exercise identified common ground around the main elements within the different systems, as well as some key differences.

The findings were used to develop a common definition, stating that a CLMRS must be able to successfully implement four core activities. Firstly, raising awareness on child labour, identifying children in child labour through an active monitoring process, providing prevention and remediation support, and finally, following up with children to monitor their status on a regular bassi until they have stopped engaging in child labour.

The collaborative study also resulted in a set of key indicators, against which implementers will be expected to report. These include the number of households and children monitored by a CLMRS; the number and percentage of children identified in child labour; whether children receive prevention and remediation support; and whether identified children stop working.

These indicators will feed into a harmonised reporting framework, which will be used by members of ICI, WCF and the national platforms in Europe to monitor progress in preventing and addressing child labour.

“The multi-stakeholder review process and the resulting operational definition represent an exciting step forwards in supporting cocoa sector actors to implement effective Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation Systems. Promoting alignment and coordinated action to tackle child labour at scale is a key part of our new strategy” said Nick Weatherill, ICI’s Executive Director.

“As the definition and indicators are based upon broad agreement of practitioners and experts from within the cocoa sector, this should lead to more consistent and transparent reporting, helping us to better understand and improve the effectiveness of CLMRS, and to ensure real impact for those children we are all working to protect.” – A broader overview of the study can be seen here.

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