Cotton Campaign Memo for the Global Partnership for Education, available as PDF here_:
GPE Should Postpone Uzbekistan Project
The Government of Uzbekistan must end state-orchestrated forced labor of children and adults to ensure GPE funds do not support human rights violations
The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) should defer action on the Application from the Republic of Uzbekistan for the “Uzbekistan: Improving Pre-primary and General Secondary Education Project (P144856)” [hereinafter “Project”] until the Government of Uzbekistan ends state-orchestrated forced labor of children and adults. The Cotton Campaign strongly supports the goal of improving education for all people in Uzbekistan. Given that each year the Ministry of Public Education is instructed to forcibly mobilize teachers and students for the cotton harvest, however, we believe the state-run forced labor and education systems are so intertwined that any funding to the education system supports forced labor of children and adults and implicates the donor in a violation of human rights. The Government of Uzbekistan has changed the demographics of forced labor over the last two years – with larger numbers adults being mobilized to replace children younger than 16 in the fields. But the government has taken no steps to change the system that underlies the use of forced labor, in which the government imposes production quotas on farmers and sets purchase prices so low that farmers cannot afford to pay field workers market wages.
Forced Labor Cotton Production and the Education System
While the Uzbek government relented under international pressure and, for the first time, allowed monitors with the International Labor Organization (ILO) into the country to monitor the Fall 2013 cotton harvest, the Government’s continued its forced-labor system in 2013. Each year the Government of Uzbekistan forces over a million children and adults to produce cotton for export to the world market. The Uzbek system of forced labor violates national law, International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions No. 105 (Abolition of Forced Labor), and in the case of children, No. 182 (Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor).
In 2013, the Government of Uzbekistan once again used forced labor on a massive scale as a matter of state policy. The Government of Uzbekistan forced farmers to produce state-imposed, annual quotas of cotton and operated an established infrastructure to coercively mobilize more than one million children and adults to pick cotton and prepare the cotton fields. Authorities forced children, mostly aged 16 to 17 years but some as young as 10 years old, to work in the cotton fields under threat of punishment, including expulsion from school, verbal abuse and physical abuse. Adults, including large numbers of teachers and school administrative and support staff, were forced to pick cotton under threat of dismissal from work, or the loss of salary, pension and welfare benefits. During the harvest, school administrators required teachers to falsely records of classroom activities in an attempt to hide this fact. Public officials also demanded and accepted payments in return for exemptions from forced labor, fostering corruption throughout the country.
The “Program Implementation Grant Application” and other Project planning documents do not include any commitment from the Government of Uzbekistan to end forced labor. GPE should not grant funds to the Government of Uzbekistan to improve educational outcomes while the government continues to force students and teachers to pick cotton instead of attend school each year. Any GPE loan should be conditioned on the Government of Uzbekistan ending forced labor.
The Government of Uzbekistan, the ILO and the Scope of Forced and Child Labor
The Government of Uzbekistan’s application for a GPE grant contains a misleading presentation of the ILO mission in Uzbekistan in 2013 by selectively citing the ILO High Level Mission Report on the Monitoring of Child Labor, 2013.
During the 2013 cotton harvest, after a decade of global pressure, the Government of Uzbekistan accepted monitoring by the ILO. In taking this step Tashkent demonstrated that it responds to international pressure. Unfortunately, the government also took steps to prevent the ILO from being able to do its job, including ordering citizens to lie if approached by foreign monitors and placing significant limitations on the ILO’s monitoring effort. These limitations included:
In its mission report, the ILO also confirms again that cotton is produced in a forced labor system in Uzbekistan. It confirms the Prime Minister’s authority over the state quota system for cotton production and the role of local-level government officials in organizing the mobilization of citizens to pick cotton. The ILO mission concludes by highlighting its concerns with the “campaign and recruitment of the labor force to harvest the cotton…and the realization of fundamental rights of the workers, including the respect for the effective implementation of Convention No. 105.”
Currently, the ILO is encouraging the Government of Uzbekistan to commit to a Decent Work Country Program, starting with a survey of forced labor. The success of the ILO’s effort depends on the Government of Uzbekistan, which must find the political will to commit to ending forced labor and demonstrate its commitment by initiating the DWCP with the ILO and the participation of the IOE, ITUC and International Union of Food Workers and continuous consultation of independent Uzbek civil society in all monitoring and technical assistance activities.
High Risk of Perpetuating Forced Labor and Inadequate Safeguards
Providing financing to Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Education while it continues to be involved in the forced mobilization of students, teachers and school staff for the cotton harvest risks perpetuating the use of forced labor. The risk that students and teachers will continue to be mobilized to pick cotton is not moderate, as claimed in the Project “Program Implementation Grant Application” (page 20). Until the Government of Uzbekistan ends its forced-labor system of cotton production, it is close to certain that students, teachers and school staff will be forced to pick cotton. There has been no cotton harvest without forced labor of students and teachers in the history of independent Uzbekistan.
Notably, the World Bank’s own Inspection Panel also reports a high risk. In its review of current World Bank financing to the Government of Uzbekistan, the Inspection Panel found that “the information reviewed by the Panel indicates that it cannot be ruled out that the project has and may still be supporting cotton production either directly or indirectly” and that “the Bank’s support [for agriculture development] may be contributing to a perpetuation of the alleged harm [of forced labor].”
The Project mitigation plan, as presented in the “Program Implementation Grant Application,” fails to account for the Government of Uzbekistan’s repression of civil society and creation of a state-controlled pseudo-NGO sector. The Project states that the Uzbek Cabinet of Ministers enlarged the Local Education Group (LEG) for the Project to include more NGOs and the teachers’ union, yet does not recognize the lack of autonomy of the organizations included in the LEG. In 2013, the Federation of Trade Unions of Uzbekistan (FTUU) took control over the teachers union, including its budget and leadership. The FTUU does not constitute a legitimate representation of workers and continues to have a member of Uzbekistan’s Cabinet of Ministers as its head.
Each year, citizens across Uzbekistan risk arrest or other government reprisal to document the Government’s forced labor system. Their work enables the world to understand the terrible impact the government’s forced labor system has on the lives the people of Uzbekistan. Yet their efforts come at a great personal cost. During the 2013 harvest, the Government held activist Sergei Naumov incommunicado, sentenced Bobomurad Razzakov to prison, and held Uktam Pardaev under house arrest. Already this year, authorities arrested Fakhriddin Tillaev and Nuraddin Djumaniyazov on fabricated charges of human trafficking while they were trying to establish a human rights organization to help the unemployed and day laborers. Since 2011, authorities have prosecuted and imprisoned eighty activists and arrested and detained 300 others for their work. The proposals to establish “Third Party Monitoring” and a “Grievance Redress Mechanism” cannot succeed until the Government of Uzbekistan respects human rights fundamental to the functioning of these systems, including freedoms of association and speech and the right to due process.
The GPE should not provide a grant to the Government of Uzbekistan while it operates a forced labor system that, according to information provided by a former Uzbek official, each year generates hundreds of millions of dollars that goes into a slush fund controlled by a small circle of senior officials with absolutely no transparency or public accountability as to its use. By failing to include these funds in the state budget, the government limits funding available for social purposes, including education. By providing money to make up for this, the GPE would in fact be helping to perpetuate the forced labor system.
 The evidence presented herein on the 2013 cotton harvest was gathered by human rights defenders in Uzbekistan through interviews and observations during the harvest. They also reviewed government documents and collected both local and international media reports on the cotton harvest. Information was gathered from seven regions. In each region a group of locals monitored the cotton harvest from beginning to end. All interviewees had direct experience of participating in the 2013 cotton harvest. The interviewees were from different families and schools. The teams of human rights defenders received training on monitoring and interview techniques by a social scientist. The monitoring teams operated anonymously for their personal protection. See Cotton Campaign, “Review of the 2013 Cotton Harvest in Uzbekistan: State Forced-Labor System Continues,” November 2013, http://www.cottoncampaign.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/2013CottonHarvest_end_report.pdf.
 International Labor Organization, “ILO High Level Mission Report on the Monitoring of Child Labor During 2013 Cotton Harvest in Uzbekistan,” 19 November 2013, paragraphs 35-36, page 13.
 The Cotton Campaigns report can be found at http://www.cottoncampaign.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/2013CottonHarvest_end_report.pdf
 Ibid Annex D, page 77.
 ILO High Level Mission Report, 2013, Paragraph 16 (“The Prime Minister declared the harvest over on October 25 when the quotas for the cotton harvest were met.”)
Ibid, Paragraph 20 [“It was also noted that in many districts lists of cotton pickers, including information on their age, were established at the local administrative level prior to the harvest...”] and Paragraph 28 [“The monitoring units found that in some districts lists of those who would pick the cotton had been drawn up...”].
 Ibid, 2013, Paragraph 32 [“The Mission wishes to draw attention to the broader issue of how the over-all management of the recruitment and use of the labor force in the cotton harvest is conducted.”] and Paragraph 35 [“Nevertheless the monitors were in a position to note other issues relevant to the mandate of the ILO. Importantly, among these issues are the framework and various practices under which the entire cotton production is conducted. This pertains to the campaign and recruitment of the labor force to harvest the cotton, the potential and consequences of mechanization on the labor market, and the realization of fundamental rights of the workers, including the respect for the effective implementation of Convention No. 105.”]
 See The World Bank Inspection Panel, “Report and Recommendation: Republic of Uzbekistan- Second Rural Enterprise Support Project (P109126) and Additional Financing for Second Rural Enterprise Support Project (P126962), 9 December 2013, Paragraph 80 [“Nevertheless, it is the Panel’s view that as long as Bank financing is supporting in some measure cotton production and there is a residual possibility that there can be child/forced labor on farms receiving project support (since they do not allegedly have a choice of whether to accept child or forced labor), then it is plausible that the Project can contribute to perpetuating the harm of child and forced labor. The information reviewed by the Panel indicates that it cannot be ruled out that the project has and may still be supporting cotton production either directly or indirectly through the different project components, including the credit line, and that this production may be using labor practices of concern to the Requesters. While the Panel cannot make definitive findings on these linkages at this stage in its process, the Panel considers that there is a plausible link between the Project and the harms alleged in the Request, and that the Bank’s support through the Project may be contributing to a perpetuation of this alleged harm.”]
 Open Society Foundations, “Uzbekistan’s Cotton Sector – Financial Flows and Distribution of Resources,” 2014, publication forthcoming.
Nadejda Atayeva, President of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia, testified to the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the United States Congress, on Wednesday, April 9, 2014. During the hearing, “World Bank Lending and Human Rights,” Ms. Atayeva presented concerns about World Bank operations in Uzbekistan, as submitted to the World Bank Inspection Panel in a complaint, available here, and affirmed in the Panel’s report, available here.
English translation of Ms. Atayeva's testimony, available as PDF here:
"Dear Members of Congress,
Allow me to thank the organizers for the opportunity to speak to you and report that millions of citizens of Uzbekistan are forced to pick cotton under inhumane conditions, ruining their health, and sometimes risking their own lives or those of their families.
For more than 10 years, the World Bank has provided loans for the implementation of projects to reform the agricultural sector of Uzbekistan. Most recently this has been through the Rural Enterprise Support Project, Round 2 (RESP-II).
Since 2000, farmers’ lands in Uzbekistan have formally been privatized. But farmers’ rights are restricted, and they cannot:
The artificially- lowered purchase prices for cotton are set by the government, and the state monopoly dictate the selling prices to producers. The majority of farmers are not able to obtain a profit from growing cotton for capital nor are they able to pay fair wages for the labor of agricultural workers. Yet they are forced to grow cotton anyway.
By orders from the government, each year, mass numbers of students and adults are driven to pick cotton – in September and October. The purpose of the government is to economize on the cost of labor and increase the profit from the sale of cotton.
Despite the reference in the World Bank’s RESP-II documents to “independent farmers”, all the farms in Uzbekistan are bound by the state purchase system
In Uzbekistan, laws have been passed forbidding forced labor, but they essentially don’t function. In government telephone conferences, with the participation of the prosecutor’s office and the Interior Ministry, directors at all levels are obliged to ensure the mass appearance of cotton workers in the fields. Directors of schools, hospitals and other state organizations must report directly to the head of the administration [local government], also in the presence of representatives of the prosecutor’s office. For failure to fulfill the state order for cotton, the directors are punished – including by dismissal. Cases of physical reprisal and even punishment leading to death are known. These cases are not investigated, the witnesses of these abuses are intimidated, and they are forced to sign non-disclosure statements by agents of the Ministry of State Security (SNB).
Meanwhile, representatives of the tax agencies are given the task to extract additional funds from business people. Part of their profits go to paying for food for the cotton workers. And these expenses are nowhere reflected in the accounts. In 2013, by orders from the government, the banks issued cash in the national currency equivalent to US $300 million to pay for the labor of the cotton workers. From this same amount, fees for food and transportation are subtracted from the wages of the cotton workers, and many of them wind up in debt. Such a practice is widespread to this day, including in regions to which the resources of the World Bank are directed.
The World Bank must not fund projects where children’s labor and forced labor are used. But in Uzbekistan, projects like RESP-II are funded because the World Bank relies on assessments done by consultants hired by the government of Uzbekistan. The consultants in turn are oriented more toward cooperation with the country that receives the funding of the World Bank. All of this creates conditions for non-objective evaluations and consequently leads to assessments like the one in RESP II that falsely conclude that there is no exploitation of child labor in Uzbekistan. In 2013 the World Bank management acknowledged in writing that “Management agrees that the assessment was not sufficiently robust in its analysis of child and forced labor in the cotton sector.” Yet despite “limited success” in management’s efforts to work with the government of Uzbekistan to improve this assessment, the project was allowed to go forward. This demonstrates a clear failure in the Bank’s adherence to its own safeguard policies.
In Uzbekistan, civil society activists who conduct monitoring of compliance with labor rights are harshly persecuted. 300 persons were prosecuted during the last 8 years, among them 80 who were imprisoned for long terms. During the campaign to monitor the cotton harvest, journalists and human rights defenders have their photo and video cameras unlawfully confiscated, they are limited in freedom of movement, fined, detained for periods up to 15 days, or even denied their right to leave the country.
Because of the World Bank’s failure to address concerns about its funds contributing to the use of forced labor in Uzbekistan my organization, along with two others, submitted a complaint to the Inspection Panel, the World Bank’s independent accountability mechanism, regarding the RESP-II project. The Inspection Panel visited Uzbekistan in December 2013 and found that there was evidence that children under 18 were forced to work in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields. The Panel found that there was a plausible link between this forced labor and World Bank funds and that there “may have been improper due diligence” conducted at the time the Bank approved RESP-II. The Panel provided Bank management a year to undertake remedial action to address the issue of child labor in this project.
Dear members of Congress!
In conclusion, forced labor of children and adults in Uzbekistan is a crime. The government of Uzbekistan orchestrates the forced-labor system. We are therefore concerned about investments by the World Bank, other international institutions, and the US government with the Uzbek government.
I would like to ask that Congress take the following steps:
UZBEK-GERMAN FORUM FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Memorandum to the European Parliament
INTA Monitoring Group on Central Asia
Human Rights Violations in Uzbekistan’s Cotton Sector in 2013
April 14, 2014
The Uzbek government once again used forced labor in the cotton sector systematically on a massive scale, and across the country in 2013, affecting hundreds of thousands ofchildren aged 15- 17 and adults. While children younger than 15 were not mobilized on a mass scale in 2013, authorities forced children aged 15-17,studying at colleges and lyceums, to abandon their studies and harvest cotton in every region of the country, for periods up two and a half months. The authorities forced teachers from institutions at every educational level to pick cotton, thereby disrupting studies for many children, even those who were not sent to the cotton fields
Uzbekistan has an atrocious human rights record, with entrenched human rights violations limiting a wide range of fundamental human rights. Torture is systematic. Courts are not independent. Violations of due process and other protections are endemic in the criminal justice system. Uzbekistan severely and unduly restricts the freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, and association. The government has only granted registration to one independent human rights organization. Journalists, civil society activists and human rights defenders are subjected to harassment, surveillance, and interference in their work, and in some cases imprisonment, ill treatment, or torture.
The government of Uzbekistan also has a long-standing record of non-cooperation with independent international monitoring and investigation mechanisms and regularly rejects or fails to comply with recommendations made by international bodies. As of 2014, Uzbekistan had failed to respond to outstanding invitations by 11 United Nations special human rights monitors.
The International Labor Organization’s Monitoring Mission
During the 2013 cotton harvest, the international Labor Organization (ILO) for the first time monitored the application of ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor. The ILO’s stated goal was to subsequently develop “a comprehensive national cooperation program in collaboration with the Sub-Regional Office and Decent Work Team covering Eastern Europe and Central Asia.”
The ILO’s monitoring mission was not able to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the use of forced labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton sector. The mission’s scope did not include the use of forced adult labor, nor were monitors present during any pre-harvest stages of work such as preparing the fields, planting, and weeding the cotton. Research by the Uzbek-German Forum evinces that children and adults were forcibly mobilized to plough and weed, as in previous years. There were other crucial methodological limitations under which the ILO monitors observed the 2013 harvest.The ILO did not ensure the participation of the International Trade Union Confederation, the International Organization of Employers, and Uzbek civil society. The monitoring teams all included Uzbek government representatives or representatives of quasi-governmental or government-controlled organizations whose independence and impartiality was far from guaranteed. According to the ILO report, the local Coordination Council, which was composed entirely of representatives of government agencies, appointed 40 Uzbek local monitors from the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, the Trade Union Federation including the Women’s committees, the Chamber of Commerce and Industries, and the Farmers’ Association, all of which are government agencies or government-controlled. The presence of monitors appointed by government officials and working for government or government-controlled agencies calls into serious question the independence and impartiality of the Uzbek team members. The government of Uzbekistan undoubtedly had a stake in the outcome of the ILO’s mission and cannot be viewed as impartial. Further, given pervasive, widespread, serious violations of human rights in Uzbekistan, there is a deeply rooted fear of government and government officials. People interviewed by the monitoring teams may not have felt secure in communicating violations that implicate the government out of fear of repercussions. The ILO’s report is silent on whether it recognized this as a possibility and attempted to take any steps to assure respondents or ameliorate issues related to the possibility of bias.
The ILO’s mission was also weakened by efforts of the Uzbek government to undermine monitoring, including transferring students, in particular first-year students,back and forth between their classrooms and the cotton fields to evade discovery by ILO monitors and instructing people to lie to monitors. These practices indicate that the government of Uzbekistan did not participate in the ILO mission as a good faith partner and, in fact, actively attempted to undermine the ILO’s monitoring.
Despite the limitations under which the ILO observed the harvest, its mission report noted the use of child labor, emphasized concerns about the use of forced labor for the cotton harvest, and recommended that the government take action to implement ILO Convention No. 105.
The Systematic Use of Child Labor in the 2013 Cotton Harvest
In the ILO mission report, the conclusion that “forced child labor has not been used on a systematic basis in Uzbekistan to harvest cotton in 2013” reflected both the goal of the exercise— to build trust towards broader ILO program in Uzbekistan— and the limitations imposed on the ILO monitors. It also contrasts with the evidence presented in the ILO mission report of the use of the state school system to mobilize students to the harvest. For example, the ILO monitors reported that in eight of nine high schools (“colleges”) they visited, classes were not in session due to cotton picking, and school officials provided no attendance registers or other evidence to support the reasons given to monitors, for example that students were engaged in extra-curricular activities.
The Uzbek-German Forum carried out research in six oblasts and the capital, Tashkent, and did not identify major regional differences in the system of forced labor. The system of forced labor is highly centralized, with directives coming from the central government and enforced by regional and local administrations. The Uzbek-German Forum interviewed 40 students and 36 teachers at colleges and lyceums.
In 2013, the government made efforts to avoid mobilizing young school children; however, they mobilized students aged 15-18 on a mass scale, suggesting the reduction in forced labor of younger children was a tactic to allay pressure. Although in some regions directives were issued to use only second and third year students for the harvest, in many cases first year students were subsequently sent to pick cotton to help schools meet their harvest quotas or to make up for labor shortfalls.The Uzbek-German Forum also documented cases in which first-year students were sent to the cotton fields and brought back earlier than second and third year students. In some cases students and teachers reported that the early return was the government’s response to the news that a “foreign delegation” or “inspection,”apparently the ILO monitors, was coming.
The Uzbek-German Forum’s researchers also documented numerous, credible accounts of attempts to manipulate the ILO’s findings by transferring students between the fields and classrooms or instructing them how to respond to questions by ILO teams.Local authorities harassed and intimidates families that did not want to allow their children to pick cotton, including threats to expel students and, in at least one case, bringing the parents before a local prosecutor. Children who are perceived to be bad workers or who failed to meet the daily quotas were berated by teachers, threatened with poor grades or expulsion, and made to perform additional work, such as scrubbing toilets or peeling potatoes. The Uzbek-German Forum documented several cases where students who failed to pick the daily quota were punished by being forced to perform arduous physical activities such as push-ups or running. Researchers also documented at least ten cases of students being hit or beaten to force them to work or as punishment for failure to meet the quota.
 International Labour Organization, “ILO High Level Mission Report on the Monitoring of Child Labour During 2013 Cotton Harvest in Uzbekistan,” 19 November 2013, paragraph 7, page 5.
 Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, Chronicle of Forced Labour, Issue 1, June 5, 2013, http://uzbekgermanforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Reports-from-the-cotton-fields-Issue-1- 2013.pdf.
 ILO report, p. 6. “The Coordination Council consists of representatives from the Ministries of Labour and Social Protection, Education, Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs, the Women’s Committee, the Center on Human Rights, the Board of Secondary and Vocational Education, theMakhalla Foundation and the ODM Kamelot.”
 Ibid, paragraphs 35-36, page 13.
 IbidAnnex D, page 77.