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Procedure : 2011/2957(RSP)
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Document selected : B7-0126/2012

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Debates :

PV 13/03/2012 - 15
CRE 13/03/2012 - 15

Votes :

PV 14/03/2012 - 9.7
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Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

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Texts adopted
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Wednesday, 14 March 2012 - Strasbourg Final edition
Child labour in cocoa sector

European Parliament resolution of 14 March 2012 on child labour in cocoa sector (2011/2957(RSP))

The European Parliament ,

–  having regard to Articles 3, 6 and 21 of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to Articles 206 and 207 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, ILO Convention No 138 concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment and the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child,

–  having regard to the conclusion of the 2010 International Cocoa Agreement, in particular Articles 42 and 43 thereof,

–  recalling its previous resolutions on child trafficking and on the exploitation of children in developing countries,

–  recalling its resolutions of 25 November 2010 on human rights and social and environmental standards in international trade agreements(1) and on corporate social responsibility in international trade agreements(2) ,

–  having regard to Rule 110(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the ILO estimates that more than 215 million children worldwide are child labourers engaged in activities that should be abolished; whereas 152 million of these children are under the age of 15 and 115 million of them engage in dangerous activities;

B.  whereas, for the purpose of this resolution, child labour means child labour as defined by the ILO in Convention No 138 concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment and Convention No 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, respectively;

C.  whereas Parliament has to give its consent to the conclusion of the 2010 International Cocoa Agreement; whereas stakeholders have raised strong concerns about child labour in the growing and harvesting of cocoa beans;

D.  whereas 70 % of world cocoa production is cultivated in West Africa and about 7,5 million people work in cocoa production in that region, almost exclusively on family smallholdings, with between 1,5 and 2 million family-run farms spread across West Africa; whereas cocoa farming is very labour-intensive during the five months harvest season and producers face strong pressures from national and international market players to keep labour costs down; whereas at peak times all family members, including children, are involved; whereas child labour poses unacceptable risks;

E.  whereas, according to the ILO, not all work done by children should be classified as child labour to be targeted for elimination, and a clear distinction between the two forms must be established; whereas children's or adolescents' participation in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their schooling is generally regarded as being something positive, unless the tasks are hazardous or keep the children from attending school;

F.  whereas studies carried out in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire suggest that children working on cocoa farms are exposed to different types of danger; whereas, in addition, some children may have been trafficked from other regions of the country or from neighbouring countries; whereas further research needs to be done on the incidence of child labour and child trafficking in the region, as no verified data exist;

G.  whereas the use of the worst forms of child labour in the growing and harvesting of cocoa beans is unacceptable;

H.  whereas in recent years programmes and initiatives to combat the worst forms of child labour on West African cocoa farms had made significant progress, although much remained to be done on account of the vast scale of this sector; whereas renewed conflict situations in the region, in particular in Côte d'Ivoire, have again worsened the situation of children;

I.  whereas poverty, a lack of alternatives for income generation, the scarcity or total lack of out-of-school opportunities for young people, rigid community structures and prevailing attitudes, the lack of adequate legal protection for children's rights and the failure to put in place mandatory public education for all children regardless of their sex, not to mention corruption and poor governance, are socio-economic and political factors that may contribute to the recurrent abuse of children in some parts of the world;

J.  recalling the primary responsibility of the governments of all countries concerned to implement fully the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ILO Convention No 138 concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment and ILO Convention No 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, respectively;

K.  recalling the EU strategy for Corporate Social Responsibility (2011-2014), the UN Global Compact, in particular Principle 5 thereof on the abolition of child labour, and the Harkin- Engel Protocol, which provide a useful framework for corporate social responsibility in the cocoa sector;

1.  Urges those states which have yet to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child or ILO Conventions Nos 138 or 182 to ratify and implement these conventions swiftly; takes the view, moreover, that states should implement all appropriate policies to foster awareness of child abuse in the labour market and of the need to comply with existing national and international rules;

2.  Strongly condemns the use of child labour on cocoa fields;

3.  Calls on all stakeholders involved in growing and processing cocoa beans and their derivative products – namely governments, global industry, cocoa producers, organised labour, non-governmental organisations and consumers – to live up to their respective responsibilities in terms of combating all forms of forced child labour and trafficking, to share expertise and to collaborate towards a sustainable cocoa supply chain free from child labour;

4.  Takes the view that only a holistic and coordinated framework that addresses the root causes of child labour and is implemented on a long-term basis by governments, industry, traders, producers and civil society can deliver significant changes;

5.  Calls on the Commission to ensure policy coherence in all its initiatives, namely those related to trade, development (in particular as regards children's access to education), human rights, public procurement and corporate social responsibility, and to encourage the exchange of best practices between different economic sectors in which child labour occurs;

6.  Urges the Commission to ensure that all trade agreements include effective provisions on poverty reduction and the promotion of decent work and safe working conditions, along with legally binding clauses on internationally agreed human rights, social and environmental standards and the enforcement of those standards, accompanied by measures to be applied in the event of infringements;

7.  Recalls that the EU's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), its main trade policy instrument for promoting core labour standards, is under review and that trade preferences granted to beneficiary countries under that system can be withdrawn in specified circumstances, namely in the event of serious and systematic violation of the principles laid down in a number of core ILO conventions, including Conventions Nos 138 and 182;

8.  Recalls that on 15 December 2011 Parliament decided to withhold its consent to a Textile Protocol to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Uzbekistan on account of concerns relating to the use of forced child labour on cotton fields in Uzbekistan, and recommended that the EU investigate the possibility of temporarily withdrawing Uzbekistan's GSP benefits if ILO monitoring bodies conclude that it has seriously and systematically breached its obligations(3) ;

9.  Welcomes all multi-stakeholder initiatives involving governments, industry, producers and civil society that aim at eradicating child labour, improving the lives of children and adults on cocoa farms and ensuring that cocoa is grown responsibly, such as the recent regional initiative by the OECD, the Secretariat of the Sahel and West Africa Club and the International Cocoa Initiative to promote best practice in combating the worst forms of child labour on West African cocoa farms; points out that these initiatives require appropriate follow-up in order to ensure genuine progress; encourages governments to increase their support to fair-trade networks in the cocoa sector and to rural cooperatives, and to enable them to send their product directly to the national and international markets, thus avoiding middlemen and obtaining fair prices; calls on the Commission to support such measures;

10.  Supports the objectives of the Protocol for the Growing and Processing of Cocoa Beans and their Derivative Products in a Manner that Complies with ILO Convention 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (known as the ‘Harkin-Engel Protocol’) and calls for its full implementation;

11.  Recalls that the CEN (European Committee for Standardisation) has recently decided to set up a new project committee in order to develop a two-part European standard for traceable and sustainable cocoa; calls on the Commission to give consideration to, and if appropriate submit a legislative proposal on, an effective traceability mechanism for goods produced by means of forced child labour; calls on the International Cocoa Agreement partners to support supply-chain improvements and better organisation of farmers in order to allow traceability throughout the cocoa sector supply chain;

12.  Calls on the International Cocoa Agreement partners to look into the possibility of introducing accredited, third-party-audited traceability for the cocoa supply chain;

13.  Calls on the Commission, the ILO-IPEC and other partners to continue their efforts to arrive at a better understanding of the economic, social and cultural complexities of farming communities;

14.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, UNICEF, the co-presidents of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, the African Union and the ILO.

(1) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2010)0434.
(2) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2010)0446.
(3) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2011)0586.

Last updated: 29 July 2013Legal notice