Having completed my 365 day challenge to post a tip, organisation, cause, issue or inspiration every day for 1 whole year (2012-2013) to help each of us to figure out how we can make a difference to the world we live in, I decided to continue posting!
I am now volunteering in Los Angeles and working with victims of human trafficking.
Stay tuned for more on that and I hope you will be inspired to start where you are and use what you have to bring on world change!
It may be unthinkable that the chocolate we enjoy could come from the hands of children working as slaves. In the Ivory Coast alone, there are an estimated 200,000 children working the fields, many against their will, to create the chocolate delicacies enjoyed around the world.
More than 10 years ago, two U.S. lawmakers took action to put a stop to child labor in the cocoa industry. Despite pushback from the industry, the Harkin-Engel Protocol, also known as the Cocoa Protocol, was signed into law on September 19, 2001.
In an upcoming documentary, "Chocolate's Child Slaves," CNN's David McKenzie travels into the heart of the Ivory Coast - the world’s largest cocoa producer - to investigate what’s happening to children working in the fields, 10 years after the protocol was signed.
The CNN Freedom Project examined in September 2011 what effect this protocol has had over the years and also what some of the major issues are surrounding slave labor and the cocoa industry. Here's some of the background of that coverage reprinted:
Does Ivory Coast allow children to work on these farms?
No, child labor is illegal and since the implementation of the Cocoa Protocol in 2001, the chocolate industry along with governments and human rights groups have worked to end the practice. Yet, a 2007 UNICEF report estimates 200,000 children are involved in the worst forms of child labor on cocoa farms throughout Ivory Coast. Some are the children of cocoa farmers but many other youths are smuggled into Ivory Coast from Mali and Burkina Faso to work on cocoa plantations, according to the International Labor Rights Forum.
What exactly is the "Cocoa Protocol"?
Ten years ago, U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, introduced legislation mandating a labeling system for chocolate. After the industry raised concerns, a compromise was reached that required chocolate companies to voluntarily certify they had stopped the practice of child labor. The certification process would not involve labeling products "child-labor-free," as initially proposed.
Instead, it calls for public reporting by African governments, establishment of an audit system and poverty remediation by 2005. The deadline had to be extended to 2008 (read Fortune Magazine's report on the state of the protocol in 2008) and again to 2010. Today, many aid groups say some of the provisions have still not been met.
So has the Cocoa Protocol had any success in ending child labor in the cocoa industry in the past 10 years?
It's hard to say. Ivory Coast has had further economic problems following its civil war from 2002 to 2004. Chocolate exporters and manufacturers say the war and its aftermath have hampered their efforts to eradicate child labor.
"Honestly, it's hard to see anybody saying that this protocol has attained the goals that were set out in it," said Judy Gearhart, executive director of the International Labor rights forum.
Chris Bayer, a Tulane University researcher, spent five years in the Ivory Coast and Ghana monitoring the protocol's plan and studying the scope of the problem.
"Unfortunately, over the last 10 years we have seen very little implementation of the actual commitments," he said. "Industry did not live up to the Harkin-Engel protocol. The issues are systemic. Children are still working."
The International Cocoa Initiative was set up by the protocol to bring all parties together to address the worst forms of child labor in the supply chain. The ICI board has representatives from the major cocoa processors and chocolate manufacturers. It says progress is being made.
"Five of the six commitments made in the protocol have been completed," the group said in an e-mail statement at the 10-year anniversary of the protocol. "And governments of cocoa producing countries, ILO, the OECD, independent foundations, members of the cocoa supply chain and ICI itself are ACTIVELY working on the sixth commitment - to improve the livelihoods of cocoa growers the infrastructure in cocoa communities farmers organizations, educational facilities etc. Substantial funds are being expended on these activities."