Entry: Mil Niepold, Senior Policy Advisor, Verité
The fall was a very fertile time for the launch of the verification phase of the cocoa certification effort, outlined originally in the Harkin - Engel Protocol. Since many people around the world are interested to know more about what has happened so far and what they can expect over the coming months, I thought I would provide a brief update.
Verité, a leading labor rights NGO, was hired by industry in June of 2007 to create a "road map" for the verification process. My core conviction all along has been that only a truly multi-stakeholder initiative would allow this effort to succeed. The complexity of the cocoa supply chain is such that it requires the commitment, dedication and experience of everyone working together - from the local NGO representative working on the Burkinabe border who spent three days just getting to our Boston meeting - to the governments of several nations - to find the best way forward.
While "engagement" can be quite a buzz word, the first NGO Consultative meeting in Boston (December, 2007) showed me the power of truly engaging the minds of many people around the central questions of how to make verification the best that it can be, and moreover, how to make sure that it helps strengthen remediation activities, thereby improving lives, in the years to come?
This meeting paved the way for the first major step in this process to unfold successfully - the creation of the 9 member multi-stakeholder International Cocoa Verification Board (ICVB). The details of who is on the Board, what role they play and how they will select verifiers will be up on the Verité website in the coming days (and the ICVB will have its own website soon, so check back often)! Simply put, the experts on the ICVB are tasked with selecting the most experienced and trustworthy verifiers to evaluate the accuracy of the National Surveys conducted by the Governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Rather than a dry scientific data-gathering exercise, this verification effort represents our first real opportunity to come together around information that we can all agree on and then roll up our sleeves and get to work on redesigning and eventually coordinating remediation efforts in ways that make the most strategic sense.