Harkin-Engel Protocol – Who Benefits?

In a previous post, I pointed out that Nestlé had mentioned their involvement in the  Harkin-Engel Protocol, in my opinion, to gain leverage in their argument that they are working to help end human trafficking. I wanted to know what made this protocol significant.

First of all, it’s not a law – it was created as an alternative to a bill for a “no child slavery” label that Eliot Engel had proposed, but which the chocolate industry in America didn’t want to see introduced as legislation. Speaking to  the BBC, he said “I didn’t trust them at first, but once they came around I trusted them and you know the proof is in the pudding so to speak. If they became hostile or were dragging their feet, we could always resort to the legislation.”

Terry Collingsworth, an American lawyer who specialises on international human rights matters, was quoted as saying of the protocol “I think anyone involved in it would have to admit that it’s been a complete failure, and what it has done is given these cocoa companies several years of cover.” As for the law originally proposed by Eliot Engel, he said “if you mean what you say and you want to stop the use of child slaves producing products like cocoa, let’s pass that law, and then we’ll have something to work with so that we can successfully stop [child slavery].”

It’s beginning to sound like things have taken a sinister twist.

The Harkin-Engel Protocol was signed in September 2001 and one of its deliverables was the creation of the International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), established in July 2002. They have a section on their website which outlines their achievements, and it looks like they haven’t been completely idle.

I’ve e-mailed Mr. Collingsworth to ask why he thinks the protocol is a complete failure. While we’re all waiting for his response, why not take a look at his website?

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