This week ICI, in partnership with the European Cocoa Association (ECA), the CAOBISCO, the Voice Network and the Cocoa Coalition, with the support of the European cocoa platforms, hosted a webinar on the EU Regulation on prohibiting products made with forced labour on the EU market and its implications for the cocoa sectorOur panel discussed the proposed Regulation, noting that forced labour is a complex problem that cannot easily be solved, and underlining the importance that the Regulation creates a level playing field, protects affected individuals, promotes traceability and transparency within the cocoa sector, in addition to its overall benefits and challenges.

The following messages were underlined by panellists:

  • The proposed regulation should build on existing international action and legislation: There are many existing legislation and guidelines that focus on human rights, such as the evolving CS3D at European level. These instruments should mutually reinforce each other.
  • It should be balanced and coherent: It should not isolate producing countries or result in disengagement or disadvantage for workers, and should protect against the risk of retaliation for whistleblowing.
  • It should focus on remediation, with clarity on what kinds of remediation should be provided.
  • There should be consideration and support for SMEs.
  • Stakeholder engagement is key to moving forward, more than just governments or businesses, civil society should also be included and the power of consumers should not be forgotten.
  • A public database will be provided to assist Member States to know whether there is a risk of forced labour at country level, regional level and product level.

In terms of the cocoa sector in West Africa, it was noted that:

  • There is still significant misunderstanding around forced labour and how it appears in the cocoa sector, with many stakeholders unaware of labour rights, including victims themselves. 
  • The EU must provide the necessary support to producing countries to help operationalize the regulation
  • A better understanding of what is happening on the ground, both the work international organisations and NGOs, and also talking directly with the farmers for a solutions-based approach, is needed. 
  • There should be a consideration for smallholder farmers to ensure that the majority offarmers who are applying good practices are not penalised for the actions of the few who may not be. 
  • The cocoa sector has already taken many steps to align with developing international legislation, but that there is also an opportunity to learn from other geographies and other sectors.

We’d like to thank all of our speakers and pannelists for their insightful input in this discussion, Madelaine Tuininga, Head of Unit at European Commission, DG Trade, Samira Rafaela, MEP, Co-rapporteur on the EU Regulation on Forced Labour, Lene Wendland, Chief, Business and Human Rights Unit, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Isabelle Adam, Corporate Relations Touton, Representing ECA, Fuzz Kitto, Co-director, Be Slavery Free, Duncan Brack, Facilitator, Cocoa Coalition, Antonie Fountain, Managing Director, VOICE Network, Euphrasie Aka, West and Central Africa Director, ICI.

Watch the webinar here: