Contact: Brandi Palmer
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and Americans eat more than 50 million pounds of chocolate to celebrate. But according to the U.S. Department of State, more than 100,000 children are enslaved working in the cocoa industry. On Feb. 8, a group of students, faculty and experts gathered at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport to discuss the issue of child labor in the international cocoa industry.
Stetson Law student Amber Knight, an intern at the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking, introduced the program, which included a screening of the documentary film, “The Dark Side of Chocolate,” by U. Roberto “Robin” Romano and award-winning Danish journalist Miki Mistrati.
International human rights expert Professor Luz Nagle moderated a panel that discussed the importance of consumer awareness, corporate responsibility and tougher labor laws to combat child slavery and exploitation. The panel included consumer advocate Carol Botbyl, Stetson Law Professor Clark Furlow, Distinguished Professorial Lecturer Justice Andrew G.T. Moore II, Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking representative Giselle Rodriguez, and nationally renowned labor lawyer Peter Robb.
Filmmaker Robin Romano joined the program via Skype. “Cocoa is to the Ivory Coast as the Ivory Coast is to cocoa,” Romano said following the screening of his film. He later shared that the Ivory Coast is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a human rights treaty advocating for children’s rights.
Rodriguez said she was saddened to know that children are forced to labor in the cocoa industry without access to adequate food, medical care, or even school.
Justice Moore said that he found not knowing even more disturbing.
In 2001, there was a force to implement legislation to give some teeth to the movement to stop child labor, Nagle said. Now a decade later, the issue remains. “Who will hold corporations accountable for enforcing the rights of the child?” Professor Nagle asked the panel.
The panel concluded with many questions. “Could we make it good business not to buy cocoa beans from companies using child labor?” Robb asked.
On one point, Professor Nagle was certain. “We all need to be involved,” she said.