Cablegate: Codel Engel's Visit On Child Labor in Cocoa Draws

DE RUEHAB #0056/01 0241809
P 241809Z JAN 08





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary. Representative Engel, Senator Harkin and
Senator Sanders met with President Gbagbo, Prime Minister
Soro and key government ministers to discuss the
implementation of the Harkin Engel Protocol, a key element of
which is the July 1, 2008 deadline, which aims to put in
place a child labor monitoring system covering 50 percent of
Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa growing region. The delegation also
held a stakeholders roundtable and a meeting with
representatives of international cocoa processors, and later
visited a representative cocoa-growing village to see first
hand some of the factors contributing to the persistence of
child labor in cocoa production. During the meetings with
the Prime Minister and President, along with the stakeholders
roundtable, the government presented the general outlines of
a proposal to extend the Protocol by channeling more of the
currently independent efforts through the national plan,
providing more resources by industry, and incorporating more
liberalization of the cocoa industry so that farmers capture
more income generated by cocoa exports. End Summary.

CODEL Engel Meets Prime Minister Soro, Ministers of
Agriculture, Labor and Family Affairs
2. (SBU) On January 8, CODEL Engel met with Prime Minister
Soro and the Ministers of Agriculture, Labor and Family
Affairs, and discussed the government's actions to date to
implement the Harkin-Engel Protocol, what steps remain to be
taken, and the means necessary to achieve objectives with
which all stakeholders agree. Prime Minister Soro, having
just arrived from a taxing journey to Bouake, the country's
second largest city and zone of recent unrest within his
"Forces Nouvelles" faction, saluted the will of his
government and its partners in the international chocolate
industry to make strides in this important endeavor.
Touching on the importance of 2008, Soro noted it will be a
year of elections and a definitive end to the ongoing
political crisis, as well as the year in which the
Harkin/Engel Protocol deadline of July 1 will fall. Soro
noted cocoa's importance to the national economy, and said
the country's government cannot hide from the reality that
child labor in the sector remains a problem. He pointed to
governmental efforts, such as distribution of school "kits"
to encourage school attendance in lieu of working in the
fields. Soro stated strongly that Cote d'Ivoire is "not a
country of slavers," in underscoring his position that while
child labor lamentably still exists, child slavery is not

3. (SBU) Representative Engel said that the delegation came
"not to judge," but out of genuine concern and desire to see
how the Protocol was being implemented on the ground.
Senator Harkin underscored Engel's statement, saying that
"together, we can lift children out of abusive situations"
and that "we are committed to the Protocol." Senator Harkin
recalled his own family history in discussing child labor,
noting his own hard work on his family's farm as a child, but
drew the distinction between permissible forms of child labor
and those targeted by ILO 182, which both the U.S. and Cote
d'Ivoire have signed. Preempting the question of a boycott
on Ivorian cocoa, Harkin told the Ivorian government that the
American people increasingly want to know from where and
under what conditions products they consume are produced, and
that they will not tolerate knowing such products are made
using labor that abuses children. Harkin asked how quickly
Cote d'Ivoire would be able to set up a child labor
monitoring system covering 100 percent of the country's
cocoa-growing regions after meeting the 50 percent threshold,
and suggested U.S. consumers would be pleased if that could
be accomplished in the months that follow July. Senator
Sanders, echoing Harkin's words, discussed how globalization
marches hand in hand with the insistence by consumers on
knowing the conditions in which products they consume are
made, and reminded the Prime Minister about the 2007 problems
with Chinese-origin products and foods. Sanders said that
the American people would not accept massive corporate
profits by cocoa-processing companies at the expense of

ABIDJAN 00000056 002 OF 005

4. (SBU) Prime Minister Soro said plainly that children
should go to school instead of working in cocoa fields. At
that point, Minister of Labor Hubert Oulaye, a strong ally of
the President, touched on the reality that the sector
comprises over 800,000 small farmers. The Minister said that
Cote d'Ivoire has signed accords with neighboring countries
to strengthen joint efforts to halt cross-border trafficking
in children to work in cocoa fields, but that unfortunately,
the practice is still widespread. Pointing to the
government's financial commitment, the Minister said it had
spent USD 6 million on a variety of child labor education,
remediation and monitoring activities, and needs an
additional USD 2 million from its partners in the chocolate
industry. Focusing on rural development, Oulaye said that
quasi-governmental cocoa structures have invested over USD 40
million in clinics, wells and road paving using funds raised
through special taxes (parafiscal charges on cocoa exports).
Oulaye mentioned key partners in education, mass
sensitization and detection efforts, specifically naming the
International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), the German government's
development agency (GTZ), the USAID/industry-funded
Sustainable Tree Crop Initiative (STCP) and the U.S.-based
NGO International Foundation for Education and Self Help
(IFESH). Oulaye assessed the efforts by the government and
its diverse partners by noting the results of the
government's pilot child labor monitoring project (the
results of which were published November 30), but also saying
that "the path towards a full certification system (as called
for by the Protocol) isn't entirely clear."

5. (SBU) Congressman Engel said that he and Senator Harkin
had extended the Protocol deadline from July 1, 2005 to 2008
in light of the political situation in Cote d'Ivoire. He
said that punitive legislation would be a last resort, but
that progress is being made; industry, for example, is no
longer hostile to the idea of taking responsibility to help
improve the child labor situation as it had been initially.
Pointing to the results from the pilot project, Engel
expressed concerns related to the high number of children
involved in one or more of the worst forms of child labor.
For example, 84 percent are used to carry overly heavy loads.

6. (SBU) Minister of Agriculture Amadou Gon Coulibaly
discussed market forces shaping the cocoa sector, noting that
the price set by the quasi-governmental Cocoa Marketing Board
(BCC) is merely indicative, not a fixed set price, and said
that farmers earn weak incomes on average. He then suggested
that a bonus paid to farmers who certify that they don't
engage in child labor could both boost farmer income and end
the use of child labor. Such revenues could be used to
invest in rural development and infrastructure, according to

7. (SBU) Senator Harkin raised the subject of industry
commitment of financial resources to the effort to combat the
worst forms of child labor, and recalled that it had pledged
USD 15 million in 2005 to be spent over three years. Citing
figures he brought with him, Harkin said that only USD 2
million has actually been committed. Breaking down the
figures even further, Harkin said that ADM had only committed
USD 150,000, Cargill USD 150,000, Kraft USD 250,000 and Mars
USD 460,000. Industry, according to Harkin, would have to
increase its level of commitment. The Prime Minister's
Special Advisor on Child Labor, Ms. Assouan Acquah, said that
the government of Cote d'Ivoire was unaware of the figures
cited by Senator Harkin, and unaware of how industry targets
its resources in the field. Senators Sanders and Harkin
remarked how even the Tulane University study examining the
Protocol's implementation was unable to determine how those
funds were being used. Acquah stated that her
inter-ministerial committee had received USD 140,000 from
industry to support its efforts to establish the child labor
monitoring system, and that industry had separately funded
international consultants to train the trainers, but that the
government was unaware of how much had been spent on the
latter effort. Similarly, Acquah said that industry and
international government development agencies (GTZ) fund
child labor efforts in the field, but do so outside of the
government's coordination and plan.

ABIDJAN 00000056 003 OF 005

8. (U) After the meeting with the Prime Minister, the
delegation was met with heavy media coverage. (Note: Press
summaries and newspaper and video clips have been sent to the
Department, the offices of the Congressional delegation and
other interested agencies via unclassified email. Contact
PAO Sharon White,, for further information.
End Note)

Codel Engel Holds Stakeholder Roundtable
9. (U) Codel Engel held a roundtable with Madame Acquah and
some of her key staff, international NGOs, GTZ, and several
representatives from the international chocolate industry on
the afternoon of January 8. Drawing on themes expressed by
the delegation with Prime Minister Soro, Senator Harkin said
that the effort to meet the July 1 deadline for a child labor
monitoring system covering 50 percent of the cocoa-growing
regions was a vital component to giving Cote d'Ivoire a
"certification report card." That report card, in turn,
would enable those interested in eventual eradication of
abusive child labor to tailor effective remediation efforts.
Senator Sanders reiterated the point that the American people
would not tolerate exploitation in the production of

10. (SBU) Madame Acquah said that the government's
monitoring system should be in place by March. Drawing from
the theme she explored in the meeting with the Prime
Minister, she said that the diverse efforts of independent
NGOs and stakeholders should be coordinated, i.e., work under
the rubric of the national plan. Otherwise, she said, their
efforts would be wasteful. With an effective national plan
encompassing efforts by all parties, necessary increases in
resources could achieve substantial results.

11. (U) GTZ presented its sensitization campaign elements,
one of the central pillars of its integrated anti-child labor
program being rolled out in Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa-growing
belt. GTZ is working with the central and departmental
governments to create a network of village anti-trafficking
committees, each of which is charged with not only detecting
cases of child trafficking, but spreading the word in each of
the many ethnic groups resident in each zone that parents
should avoid the worst forms of child labor when their
children accompany them to the fields, and should insist that
children go to school. In connection with its child labor
campaign, GTZ provides local-language content to the
country's network of rural radio stations to reinforce the
central message.

12. (U) ICI's representative reported that its
sensitization campaign is an essential element of its
strategy. ICI begins by helping farmers understand the
definition of children and child labor according to
international standards (under 18), which contrasts with
traditional notions which generally identify children as 14
and under. ICI's local NGO partner elaborated on this theme,
noting that generally young people of 12 and 13 who already
have children (which is common) are considered adults.
However, ICI's representative said that with proper
sensitization, communities begin to motivate themselves and
adopt strategies (such as building schools, even without
governmental assistance).

13. (SBU) Congressman Engel asked industry representatives
for a review of industry's expenditures to date in support of
ICI. ICI's representative said that ICI's expenditures in
2007 were USD 2 million, of which USD 500,000 was spent in
Cote d'Ivoire. USD 250,000 was spent to train NGO partners,
USD 150,000 on NGO sensitization campaigns, and USD 100,000
to support a local NGO that specializes in removal of
trafficked children and their repatriation. In the past,
according to ICI, there were considerable capacity and
absorption problems, as governmental and other structures
lacked sufficient institutional ability to be able to handle
more than modest infusions of resources. Those capacity
problems are largely solved, and ICI will be able to
substantially ramp up its activities. An industry
representative, responding to the same question from Engel,

ABIDJAN 00000056 004 OF 005

echoed ICI in saying a ramp-up in industry resource provision
is now possible and expected. He also said that industry
commits resources to the effort outside of the ICI framework,
but acknowledged industry needs to be more transparent in its
engagement. Senator Harkin asked if industry can better
coordinate its efforts with those of the government, while
Senator Sanders remarked that for multi-billion dollar
companies, the resources committed to date are paltry.
Industry's representative again acknowledged industry can and
will do more.

14. (U) The International Organization of Migration
representative discussed trafficking and reported that in
late November 2007 in the western region around Guiglo, 21
trafficked children from Burkina Faso were intercepted by
police trained by IOM. Those children were turned over to
the proper authorities. Despite this and other successes,
IOM said that problems remain. Specifically, the government
must do more to provide services to "campements," often
located far away from established, legally-recognized
villages and which are home to large populations of
non-indigenous ethnic groups and their unschooled children.

Codel Meets Privately with Industry
15. (SBU) The delegation met local representatives from
Cargill, ADM and Barry Callabout, as well as two
representatives from the international cocoa industry group
(GIG) at a small dinner hosted by the Ambassador. While
quickly recognizing their companies and the industry as a
whole can and must do more, industry representatives reported
that their organizations are already active in individual,
company-level child-labor sensitizing campaigns with their
suppliers, but that they cannot, by law, engage in activities
beyond those, such as monitoring and reinsertion. Industry
representatives also said that heavy taxation, in addition to
legal prohibitions on their direct engagement with cocoa
farmers, results in markedly lower revenues per kilo for
Ivorian farmers in comparison to their Ghanaian counterparts.

Codel Meets with President Gbagbo
16. (SBU) The delegation met with President Laurent Gbagbo
in the evening of January 8. Senator Harkin told the
President that the delegation comes in friendship, in an
effort to help Cote d'Ivoire extract children from slavery
and abusive labor situations. Congressman Engel recalled the
history of the Protocol, and underscored the responsibility
of the American people and American chocolate industry to
eradicate abusive child labor. Senator Sanders remarked that
the growing consciousness of how and by whom products are
made will inevitably lead to demands for assurances from the
major cocoa processors that cocoa is produced using morally
acceptable labor.

17. (SBU) President Gbagbo said unequivocally that the
place for children is in school - not in factories, not on
the farm, but in school. He related that his campaign in
2000 called for free school for all, and that the events of
2002 interrupted efforts to implement the concept. With a
renewed mandate in the upcoming 2008 elections, the President
said he would fulfill the promise. In 10 years, he opined,
all children would be in school, from 6 to 16 or even 18
years of age. Turning to cocoa and child farm labor,
President Gbagbo said the country has to replace the old
traditions with new ones, ones more related to school, even
for children intending to take up farming as a profession.

18. (SBU) Gbagbo proposed signing a new protocol on child
labor in the cocoa sector, and noted that a draft was being
prepared by his cabinet and staff. That protocol would
extend beyond July 1, 2008, and include elements of greater
collaboration under the rubric of the national plan as well
as overall reform in the cocoa sector. President Gbagbo said
that Ambassador Charles Koffi and Ambassador Nesbitt could
work together as intermediaries with Senators and Congressmen
involved in the issue to negotiate such an accord in the
coming months.

19. (SBU) Senator Sanders asked President Gbagbo why cocoa

ABIDJAN 00000056 005 OF 005

farmers in Ghana and elsewhere earn more per kilo than do
Ivorian farmers. The President said candidly that the system
put into place during the recent liberalization (which began
in 1999 and continued through the beginning of his presidency
in 2000) has not produced good results. Middlemen, according
to the President, interfere too much in the relationship
between international buyers/exporters and farmers,
depressing the prices the latter receive. The more liberal
"English" model seen in Ghana, according to the President,
emphasizes the independence of co-operatives in negotiating
prices, all to the benefit of individual farmers.
Introducing elements of this more liberalized system could be
part of the new Protocol, according to President Gbagbo.
Congressman Engel and the rest of the delegation agreed this
and other aspects of the child labor question could be part
of the negotiations to be facilitated by the countries

Codel Visits Cocoa Farming Community of Kouamekro
20. (U) The delegation visited the region of Kouamekro on
January 9. Meeting village leaders who represent different
ethnic groups in the community, the delegation saw first hand
how the lack of government schools, health care and access to
potable water affects cocoa-growing communities and
frustrates efforts to encourage schooling instead of cocoa
farming among children. ICI showed its programs in action in
the village, notably the school it has helped the community
build, needed as the nearest government school is over 10 km
away over a poorly maintained dirt road. (The visit was the
subject of substantial press attention, and clips have been
sent to the Department, the offices of the Congressional
delegation and other interested agencies via unclassified

21. (SBU) Comment: The visit of Codel Engel provided the
government an opportunity to showcase its efforts to
implement the Harkin Engel Protocol, as well as make its case
that it is ready for greater industry engagement, channeled
through its national plan. Industry, for its part, indicated
it can and will provide more assistance, and should be more
transparent in its operations. The proposed new Protocol is
an intriguing concept that encompasses elements of the child
labor problem as well as the need for overall reform of the
cocoa sector. Embassy Abidjan stands ready to facilitate
continued dialogue on these questions. End Comment.

Codel Engel has seen and approved this cable.

© Scoop Media

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