Didier Reynders opens seminar on business and human rights in Côte d’Ivoire

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders opened this morning, in the presence of HRH Princess Astrid, a seminar on human rights in the private sector. The topic of the seminar was more specifically the prevention and abolition of child labor in the cocoa supply chain. Cocoa is the main export product of Côte d’Ivoire.

Minister Reynders’ speech was followed by other interventions, testimonies and a debate where all parties involved in this topic were brought together. The conference was attended by representatives of the International Labor Organization (ILO), UNICEF, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, Ivorian cooperatives of cocoa producers, traders and important players in the chocolate industry. Dominique Ouattara, the First lady of Côte d’Ivoire and an active advocate of children’s rights and the abolition of child labour, took also the floor.

The number of child laborers in Africa has declined by a third since 2000. The figure remains however very high, with around 152 million child laborers in the world and 72.1 million in Africa according to the ILO. Most of the chocolate producers, many of which are also active in Belgium, have taken up the challenge to produce only sustainable chocolate by 2020.

The Belgian government is very keen to cooperate with countries like Côte d’Ivoire to encourage companies to respect international standards in the field of human rights. It is important to ensure that the strengthening of our economic ties goes hand in hand with a better quality of life for our citizen, with a particular attention for the most vulnerable amongst them.

Belgium has marked its commitment to human rights in the private sector in a National Action Plan on “Business and Human rights”. The plan was adopted in July 2017 and will be soon officially presented.

One of the commitments of the Action Plan is to integrate an awareness-raising and information activity on this topic during economic missions abroad, in cooperation with the host country, private companies and civil society. Today’s seminar was the first of its kind, but the initiative will be repeated during future economic missions.

The seminar took part in the larger context of the relationship between the European Union and Africa. At the end of November, Abidjan will host the fifth EU-Africa Summit, where the focus will lay on the importance of investing in the youth.

The text of the speech delivered by Minister Reynders can be found  here (PDF, 43.81 KB).

Didier Reynders is currently in Abidjan, where he takes part until Thursday in the first Belgian economic mission in Côte d’Ivoire. For more information about this topic, go to www.belgianeconomicmission.be or follow us on Twitter with the hashtag #BEmissionCIV.