Cablegate: Scenesetter for Harkin Codel January 7-9 Visit To

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1. (SBU) Embassy Abidjan warmly welcomes your visit. Yours
will be the first visit by a Congressional delegation to Cote
d'Ivoire in many years. Senator Harkin and Representative
Engle's roles in developing and implementing the
international public/private accord (the "Harkin-Engle
Protocol") is well-known here, and your visit will be an
excellent opportunity to underscore the interest of the
American people in seeing sustained progress in eliminating
the worst forms of child labor in Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa
sector. The USG is very positively viewed in Cote d'Ivoire;
in a poll taken within the last 12 months, the U.S. was
viewed favorably by 88 percent of Ivorians.

Political Situation
2. (SBU) Cote d'Ivoire is beginning to emerge from a
five-year crisis during which the country was divided in two,
with government forces controlling the southern half of the
country and rebel forces, known locally as the Forces
Nouvelles, in control of the north. In March, 2007, the
Ouagadougou Political Agreement (OPA) was signed by Cote
d'Ivoire's two primary protagonists: President Gbagbo and
now-Prime Minister Soro. Reportedly the result of direct
negotiations between the government and the rebels, the OPA
was facilitated by President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso,
who continues to play an active role in overseeing its
implementation. The OPA is a viable roadmap for the
country's emergence from the political crisis. From March
until November, the pace of implementation was quite
disappointing and the international community conveyed to the
government its desire for swifter progress. Over the last
month, substantial progress had been made and there is now
much greater optimism. The President and the Prime Minister
have committed to holding presidential elections in 2008 and
to implementing as rapidly as possible provisions in the
Ouagadougou Political Agreement regarding disarmament and
reintegration of the rebel forces. Dismantling militias that
sprung up in western Cote d'Ivoire will also be necessary.

3. (SBU) The question of nationality (or "Ivoirite") is at
the heart of the political stalemate. A substantial number
of individuals (estimates range from 300,000 to 3 million)
are currently undocumented as Ivorians and are thus unable to
participate fully in Ivorian society where the possession of
a national ID card governs a broad swath of activities,
including eligibility to vote and to own land for
agricultural cultivation. A majority of those who are
undocumented have family ties to Burkina Faso and were
initially welcomed into the northern region of Cote d'Ivoire
as much-needed laborers in the cocoa sector. While Cote
d'Ivoire's founding father and first president
Houphouet-Boigny took a very liberal approach to integrating
this group into Ivorian society, his successors actively
promoted a more restrictive approach, including changes to
the constitution that emphasized the national divisions
between north and south and between Christian and Muslim.

4. (SBU) A coup attempt in 2002 quickly evolved into an armed
rebellion that split the country in two. The identity
question was reportedly one of the major grievances of the
rebelling parties. Definitive reunification of the country
and the restoration of government authority throughout the
national territory will be difficult to achieve unless the
issue of nationality is dealt with in a manner acceptable to
both sides. Efforts underway to address this issue include
the holding of "audiences foraines" or public tribunals
designed to document individuals whose birth in Cote d'Ivoire
was never registered. In recent weeks, the pace of the work
done by the audiences foraines has picked up, but the total
of persons processed remains below 100,000. The political
stakes in the identification process are quite high, as the
registration of a substantial number of new voters,
particularly in the north, could alter the demographics for
the next presidential election.

Status of Bilateral Aid
5. (SBU) Cote d'Ivoire has been under Section 508 sanctions
since the December 1999 coup that removed Henri Bedie from

ABIDJAN 00001238 002 OF 003

power. Sanctions were not lifted following the 2000 election
due to government interference in the election with the
intent of manipulating the results. Cote d'Ivoire was
suspended from AGOA benefits on January 1, 2005, due to an
Ivorian government decision to violate the UN-monitored
cease-fire in November 2004 and lack of progress on key
economic reforms. A credible election and substantial
progress in meeting IMF/World Bank transparency goals would
pave the way for a resumption of aid. In the interim, a very
small bilateral assistance program focused on electoral
preparation (involving NDI and IFES) is directed from USAID's
West African Regional Program based in Accra.

Child Labor Situation
6. (SBU) Prompted in large measure by the Harkin-Engel
Protocol, the government of Cote d'Ivoire, working with
international industry, bilateral development agencies and
international NGOs, has implemented a variety of programs and
conducted a number of surveys addressing the worst forms of
child labor. Several diagnostic studies have been completed,
the most recent a preliminary study conducted by the Prime
Minister's inter-ministerial taskforce (supported by the
international industry) published November 30. It found that
22 percent of children in the sample region were involved in
cocoa production, and a majority of them were involved in one
of the worst forms of child labor, carrying heavy loads. The
report demonstrates that the cocoa-growing sector is composed
of hundreds of thousands of relatively small, family-owned
and operated farms, many if not most of which are operated by
people from the northern part of Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso,
Mali and elsewhere who have settled and formed communities in
the southern cocoa-growing belt. The survey shows that the
great majority of children involved in farm labor are members
(either immediate or extended) of the cocoa producer's
family. This pilot survey will be scaled up and conducted
throughout at least 50 percent of the country's cocoa-growing
regions in the coming months.

7. (SBU) The government of Cote d'Ivoire has also adopted a
National Plan of Action Against Child Trafficking and Labor
(drafted by the Ministry of Labor) that will run from
September 2007 through December 2009. The plan's overall
objectives are: to adopt laws specifically prohibiting these
practices, to determine the scope of the problem, to take
measures to prevent these practices, and to reintegrate
victims into society. The plan relies substantially on the
continued engagement of international actors.

8. (U) Over a dozen international organizations and NGOs
have programs currently underway to combat and address the
issue of child labor in the cocoa sector. Many are of
focused on sensitization and education of cocoa farmers and
cocoa communities, while others concentrate their efforts on
encouraging children of cocoa farmers to attend school. Some
efforts attack the problem of child labor in cocoa by giving
farmers practical agronomy lessons which incorporate robust
modules explaining the hazards associated with WFCL, and yet
others combat the problems affecting cocoa farm families by
conducting adult literacy campaigns, again with elements that
discourage WFCL.

9. (U) A preliminary study of efforts to monitor and
eliminate WFCL, carried out by contractors engaged by Tulane
University's Payson Center under a grant from the DOL
provided an initial review of the multiple efforts to assess
and end WFCL.

10. (U) The cocoa and cotton sectors taken together support
some 9 million people in Cote d'Ivoire, nearly half the
population. Cotton output has dropped by more than 50
percent since 2000. Cocoa output has remained essentially
stable, hovering at the 1 million ton mark since 2000, with a
slight dip to 950,000 in the 2002-03 harvest. International
industry and Ivorian shipping companies estimate that up to
200,000 tons of cocoa per year have been trans-shipped
through Ghana and Togo to evade artificially low prices since
2000, but those numbers appear to have come down since 2006.

Economic Context

ABIDJAN 00001238 003 OF 003

11. (SBU) Cote d'Ivoire's political crisis has had a
predictably negative effect on many parts of the economy.
Economic activity in general remains sluggish and per capita
income has slumped. Overall GDP grew by 1.8 percent in 2006,
a slight recovery over 2005; growth in 2007 is projected to
be 2 percent. This growth can be attributed primarily to
higher export earning from oil and refined products (now $1.3
billion annually, reasonably steady cocoa revenues ($1
billion) and proceeds form an expanding telecommunications
sector. However, the majority of the population is not
better off. Per capita income declined by 0.6 percent in
2005 and 0.7 percent in 2006; a 0.2 percent drop is predicted
for 2007. Economic activity in the north of the country
remains well below pre-crisis levels. Inflation has not been
an issue until recently; the average consumer price rise was
about on-half a percent from 2004-2006. Rising oil prices
have increased transportation costs and the exchange rate has
accelerated in recent months in line with the Euro's
appreciation vis-a-vis the dollar.

12. (U) The hardships brought on by the division of the
country triggered a substantial movement of people from north
to south; several hundred thousand people have been
internally displaced since 2002. Cote d'Ivoire's cocoa
growing region has been particularly affected by these
population movements. There has also been a significant
increase in poverty. According to World Bank estimates, the
poverty level has increased 5 percent, from 38.2 percent in
2002 at the onset of the crisis to 43.2 percent in 2006.
Modest improvements in economic activity have been noted
since the signature of the OPA, and civil servants are
beginning to return but huge challenges loom ahead.

13. (SBU) A bright spot in the U.S.-Cote d'Ivoire
relationship has been our PEPFAR program. Cote d'Ivoire is
one of 15 focus countries that receives funds for HIV/AIDs
prevention, education, and treatment; the USG is by far the
largest supporter of HIV/AIDs activities in Cote d'Ivoire and
of the health sector in general. In 2007, the PEPFAR program
received $85 million; we expect an increase to about $120
million in FY 08. Ensuring the proper use of these funds is
a central focus of our PEPFAR team. We have made remarkable
strides in terms of expanding treatment and are working to
improve joint efforts with the government of Cote d' Ivoire
to tackle ongoing issues with stigma and HIV/AIDs
education/prevention activities. We would gladly arrange a
visit to a PEPFAR project should this interest you.

14. (U) Once again, we look forward to your visit.

© Scoop Media

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