1. The problem
The majority of victims are children who end up in situations of forced labour in agriculture, mining, fishing, construction and domestic work
Côte d’Ivoire is a source, transit and destination country for women and children who are subjected to forced labour and sexual exploitation. The majority of victims are children who end up in situations of forced labour in agriculture, mining, fishing, construction and domestic work. Children are also forced into work as street vendors and shoe-shiners; girls have been trafficked both internally and from neighbouring countries Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Mauritania and Togo for the purpose of forced domestic work and sexual exploitation.5
Women and girls have been trafficked internally and from neighbouring countries such as Ghana and Nigeria for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude.6
Notable aspects of the problem
Côte d’Ivoire’s primary export is cocoa, providing 40 per cent of the world’s cocoa, making it the world’s leading supplier. It was discovered in 2000 that many children were being subjected to the worst forms of child labour in this sector, forced to work in hazardous conditions.7 A government report from 2010 estimated that over 30,000 children were in conditions of forced labour in rural areas. Apart from cocoa, children are employed in the production of grains, vegetables, coffee, fruit, cotton, palm, rice and rubber.8 This estimate, however, does not take into account the larger number of children working on their families’ farms under conditions which can be akin to the worst forms of child labour.9 An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 children are working on small family-owned farms in Côte d’Ivoire.10
Political instability in Côte d’Ivoire following the election of Laurent Gbagbo in 2010 caused civil conflict, from which unconfirmed reports emerged of children being used by the armed forces on both sides as guides, cooks and guards. Because of the conflict, external agencies that had been monitoring the use of child labour were unable to access the relevant areas and confirm these reports, or assess the scale of the problem.11
2. What is the government doing about it?
Côte d’Ivoire has ratified a number of the key international treaties relevant to modern slavery but not the Slavery Convention itself, or the Domestic Work Convention.
|Supplementary Slavery Convention||Yes|
|UN Trafficking Protocol||Yes|
|Forced Labour Convention||Yes|
|Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention||Yes|
|CRC Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children||Yes|
|Domestic Work Convention||No|
The Government of Côte d’Ivoire has established special agencies to deal with the worst forms of child labour in the cocoa sector, and has developed frameworks for hazardous forms of child labour. In 2007, the Government issued a National Plan of Action with the aim to reduce child slavery by 50 percent over a three-year period – a goal that was not achieved. In 2012, a renewed national plan was launched targeting trafficking, exploitation and child labour.
The renewed 2012-2014 National Action Plan, implemented through the Inter-Ministerial Committee and the National Oversight Committee for Actions against Child Trafficking, Exploitation and Labour, aims to significantly reduce the worst forms of child labour by 2014. This renewed effort, headed by the First Lady of Côte d’Ivoire, incorporating government agencies, NGOs and the private sector as key actors in the sector, shows stronger ambition and commitment than has been demonstrated before.12
The Government has established special agencies to deal with the worst forms of child labour in the cocoa sector
Child and forced labour are addressed in Côte d’Ivoire’s Constitution. In Article 3 of the Constitution the following are prohibited: slavery; forced labour; inhumane and cruel, degrading and humiliating treatment; physical or mental torture; physical violence and mutilation; and all forms of debasement of the human being. In 2010, Law No. 2010-272 was passed to make the trafficking of children and the worst forms of child labour illegal with the aim to “identify, prevent, and suppress trafficking and hazardous child labour as well as to support victims.”13
In terms of policy coordination, there is a Joint Ministerial Committee on the Fight against Trafficking, Exploitation, and Child Labor14 and also a National Monitoring Committee on Actions to Fight Trafficking, Exploitation, and Child Labor.15 These were created to assess and monitor the actions of the Government in the fight against the trafficking, exploitation and child labour. Under the auspices of the First Lady of Côte d’Ivoire, this latter committee is made up of international and non-governmental organisations working in child protection.
Côte d’Ivoire has established a specialist anti-trafficking law enforcement unit, overseen by a police chief and staffed by four police officers and two social workers. This unit investigates cases of child trafficking. New monitoring brigades established as part of the new National Monitoring Committee for Actions to Fight against Trafficking, Exploitation and Child Labor in 2011 are also responsible for investigating trafficking.16
There are no government-operated shelters for victims of trafficking, but local NGOs operate two ‘multipurpose shelters’.17 The Government is planning to build shelters for child victims of trafficking, supporting this project with the equivalent of $206,000 USD.18
Distributers and consumers of Côte d’Ivoire’s primary export – cocoa – have implemented various efforts to combat modern slavery in the cocoa industry. The Netherlands, which processes more than 20% of the world’s cocoa beans,19 signed a Letter of Intent in 2010 committing that all cocoa consumed in the Dutch market would be ‘guaranteed sustainable’ – thereby prohibiting the worst forms of child labour – by the year 2025. This approach applies pressure to companies to engage product certifiers and to comply with product standards. If successful, this method will have a significant impact on the worst forms of child labour in Côte d’Ivoire and forms a model to be emulated by all other cocoa processing and distributing nations.
In 2000, a bilateral accord was signed with Mali aiming to prevent child trafficking between the two countries.20
Notable aspects of the response
The Ivorian Government has placed a high level of importance on child slavery
Since the emergence of reports of child slavery in the cocoa sector, the Ivorian Government has placed a high level of importance on the issue. The 2001 Harkin-Engel Protocol, a public-private agreement that worked towards the goal of producing cocoa in accordance with the ILO Convention 182 concerning the Worst Forms of Child Labour, has had a significant impact in Côte d’Ivoire. The International Cocoa Initiative was established in 2002, and has since implemented initiatives to regulate the production of cocoa. In 2010 a Declaration of Joint Action Support Implementation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol and a Framework of Action to Support Implementation of the Harkin-Engel Protocol were signed by the Ivorian Government and representatives of the international cocoa industry, renewing their commitment to the goals of the Protocol, and engaging other stakeholders in the industry to eradicate the worst forms of child labour, aiming to reduce it by 70% by the year 2020.21
In 2007 the Government formed the Child Labour Monitoring System (SSTE), which is in charge of implementing certification mechanisms in line with the Protocol. However, it is not fully functioning and does not have wide geographical coverage.22
In 2010, the Service Autonome de Lutte Contre le Travail des Enfants (Directorate for the Fight Against Child Labour) was created with the primary aim to develop, monitor and implement the national policies concerning the fight against the worst forms of child labour.23
3. What needs to happen?
Côte d’Ivoire should:
- Carry out household surveys in different regions of the country to assess the scale and nature of modern slavery and the need for services.
- Investigate the conditions where children work, placing a special focus on hazardous work in all sectors of employment.
- Continue to prioritise issues of modern slavery, and increase efforts to strengthen the rule of law.
- Create new partnerships and legal mechanisms in collaboration with companies in the cocoa market to commit to a policy of full disclosure regarding the sourcing of their product, similar to the mechanism implemented for the sourcing of minerals under the U.S. Conflict Mineral Law. Such an initiative would require cooperation from governments around the world.
- Working alongside the Ivorian Government, the cocoa industry should contribute greater financial support to mechanisms like the International Cocoa Initiative and country level child labour units, in order to ensure that the targets of the Harkin-Engel Protocol are met.
- Increase victim support programmes to properly care for children who have been involved in the worst forms of child labour, and reintegrate them into education and society.
- Increase efforts in investigating other forms of modern slavery, and the trafficking patterns of the area, which are unrelated to child labour.