Today, the Cotton Campaign sent the following letter to the American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce. The AUCC announced that it will lead the companies on its board to participate in a business forum at the end of this week. The AUCC board includes: Boeing, Case New Holland, FMN Logistics, GE, GM Korea, Harris, Honeywell, Indsur, Lockheed Martin, McLarty Associates, Nukem, Rio Tinto, Sikorsky, Solar Turbines: A Caterpillar Company, White & Case LLP, and Zeppelin: CAT.
“15 August 2012
Ms. Carolyn Lamm
Chair, American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce (AUCC)
1300 I Street, NW, Suite 720W
Washington, D.C. 20005
Dear Ms. Lamm:
On the eve of the 2012 Uzbekistan-U.S. Annual Business Forum, the Cotton Campaign calls on the American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce to address the state-sponsored forced labor of children and adults in the cotton sector of Uzbekistan, a system that represents a specific human rights responsibility for companies directly invested in this high-risk environment.
Every year the government of Uzbekistan forcibly mobilizes over a million children, teachers, public servants and private sector employees for the manual harvesting of cotton. The Uzbek government requires farmers to grow cotton, and local provincial government offices (khokimiyats) forcibly mobilize adults and children to harvest cotton and meet assigned quotas. The Uzbek government enforces these orders with threats; detains and tortures Uzbek activists seeking to monitor the situation; and continues to refuse to allow the International Labour Organisation to monitor the harvest. Employers, workers and government representatives to the ILO have repeatedly called on the Uzbek government to accept tripartite ILO monitoring, and the Uzbek government continues to refuse.
The state-sponsored forced labor system of cotton production presents an unacceptable risk to companies if left unaddressed. In recent years, an increasing number of private sector employees, including General Motors workers in 2011, were forced to pick cotton. We call on the AUCC to urge its members to assume their responsibilities by conducting due diligence that ensures human rights are respected in their supply chains, even if they have not directly contributed to the rights violation.
Since slavery-like practices continue to be used in Uzbekistan’s cotton sector, businesses have a responsibility to avoid using Uzbek cotton in their supply chains until the use of forced labor in the Uzbekistan cotton sector is ended. Companies that are invested in any sector in Uzbekistan also have a responsibility to take preventive measures to avoid complicity in the forced labor system and to ensure that the human rights of their employees and their children are respected. Preventive measures should include independent risk assessments and monitoring led by Uzbek civil society.
There is no better time to take action. The harvest begins following the AUCC delegation to Tashkent, and once again, children and adults will be forced to pick cotton. We welcome the opportunity to engage in dialogue with AUCC member companies about measures they take to safeguard human rights in Uzbekistan, and we would be pleased to meet with you to discuss these issues further.
The Cotton Campaign:
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
American Federation of Teachers
Association for Human Rights in Central Asia
The Child Labor Coalition
European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights
International Labor Rights Forum
National Consumers League
Open Society Foundations
Responsible Sourcing Network
United Auto Workers
Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights”