Document Type

Article

Comments

"The Raphael Lemkin Prize Paper."

Abstract

In a local grocery store in middle-America, a chocolate-loving consumer contemplates two substantially identical candy bars. The hungry shopper has no particular brand loyalty and both sweets are of a comparable price. Before proceeding to the checkout line, the consumer spots a seal on the wrapper of one of the candy bars, indicating that the chocolate has been certified by the United States government for having been produced in a socially responsible manner. This seal, if credible and easily recognizable, has added a new dimension to the consumer’s choice by allowing her to make a decision based on information that goes beyond nutrition, ingredients, taste or any other properties associated with the candy bar itself. Instead, the consumer is empowered to make a choice based on how the candy bar was produced. As a consequence of this information, the consumer can elect to use her buying power to effectively cast a vote in favor of socially responsible production by giving the certified chocolate a competitive edge.

On the other side of the globe, in West Africa, a child works long hours harvesting cocoa beans, one of an estimated 12,000 children trafficked for this purpose in Cote d’Ivoire alone. Approximately 40% of world cocoa production originates in Cote d’Ivoire, where the pressure to keep production prices as low as possible stems from the easy substitutability and high competition in the market for this agricultural good. Stories of children being trafficked to work in “horrific” conditions in the West African cocoa fields were brought to the public’s attention in 2000, yet consumers in the United States are still unwittingly buying chocolate produced by trafficked children. Pressure from the public and from Congress shamed the chocolate industry into agreeing to a comprehensive protocol aimed at creating a certification process for a “no child slavery” label, but stalled negotiations have left chocolate unlabeled and consumers uninformed.

Date of Authorship for this Version

May 2008

Share

COinS