Last week, the American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce boasted on its website that it was upgrading its annual American-Uzbek Business Forum in light of positive developments in bilateral relations:
Due to the positive developments during the recent Annual Bilateral Consultations between the Governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Uzbek Government has decided to substantially increase its level of participation at the AUCC Annual Business Forum. The Uzbek delegation to the Republic of Uzbekistan will be led and represented by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Elyor Ganiev, who will attend the events organized by the AUCC and its members.
The AUCC provided an upbeat perspective on its own role and the need to keep moving:
The AUCC members hope that the U.S. - Uzbekistan Annual Business Forum will strengthen our countries’ understanding of the urgency and importance to engage more at the commercial, political and other levels. As they often say it in the East: Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid of only standing still. The AUCC members are confident that our nations dialogue on furthering bilateral cooperation will continue and the AUCC stands ready to be used as an impetus and a vehicle for letting it grow.
What followed then on the same page -- last week -- was a detailed agenda for the September 28 meeting and a list of all the speakers and their topics.
Evidently after learning of a planned picket by labor and human rights groups outside the venue, the AUCC removed the agenda from their website.
But you can still see partial evidence of it in the Google cache page preview:
Partial View of Agenda Removed from AUCC Website
...and we saved a copy:
2011 U.S.-UZBEKISTAN ANNUAL BUSINESS FORUM
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2011
HOTEL W, WASHINGTON DC, USA
Registration and Breakfast
American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce: Welcome Remarks
Carolyn B. Lamm, Chairman
American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce
Republic of Uzbekistan: Welcome Remarks
Elyor Ganiev, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan - Minister of Foreign Affairs
United States of America: Welcome Remarks
Susan M. Elliott, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia
U.S. Department of State
Report from the 2011 United States – Central Asia Trade and Investment Council Meeting
Jonathan Ward, Director for South and Central Asia
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
U.S. Government Resources for Doing Business
Danica Starks, Senior Caucasus and Central Asia Policy Advisor
Office of Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, International Trade Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce
11.00 AM – 12.00 PM
INVESTING IN UZBEKISTAN: INDUSTRY CASE STUDIES AND SUCCESS STORY
Moderated by Shukhrat Vafaev, Managing Director
Fund for Reconstruction and Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Prospects for Developing Uzbekistan – American Investment Cooperation and Navoi Free Industrial Economic Zone: Opportunities to Produce High-Tech Products for Exports
Davron Dadakhanov, Head of the Department
Ministry for Foreign Economic Relations, Investments and Trade
Uzbek Oil and Gas Sector: Prospects for Bilateral Cooperation
Djurabek Mirzamakhmudov, Deputy Chief of the Main Directorate
Uzbekneftegas National Holding Company (Uzbek Oil and Gas)
Presentation by the Main Sponsor of the Event
NUKEM and NMMC: Reliable Supply of Uranium to Western Markets for 19 years
Tim McGraw, Executive Vice-President
Uzbek Chemical Industry: Prospects for Bilateral Cooperation
Khamidilla Shermatov, Chairman
UzChimProm State Company (Uzbek Chemical Industry)
1.00 PM – 2.15 PM
AUCC MEMBERS: U.S BUSINESSES AT THE FOREFRONT OF PROMOTING BILATERAL TRADE AND INVESTMENTS
Moderated by Tim McGraw, AUCC President
CNH in Uzbekistan
Stuart Campbell, Business Director
Case New Holland
GE’s Perspective on Doing Business in Uzbekistan
George A. Pickart , Director of Global Government Relations for GE Energy
General Electric Company
Caterpillar and Zeppelin; Reliable Partners for Growing Uzbekistan’s Economy
Tom Moran, Consultant
Zeppelin International AG
Uzbekistan and Honeywell: 20+ Years of Partnership
Art Simonetti, Vice President
GM Uzbekistan: A Partnership For Success
Arturo Elias, VP International Government Relations & Public Policy
2.30 PM – 3.45 PM
UZBEK, U.S. & INTERNATIONAL BANKING, FINANCIAL AND POLICY RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS: ECONOMY, BANKING, ENERGY AND SECURITY
Moderated by Dr. S. Frederick Starr. Co-moderated by Tim McGraw, AUCC President
The Three Poles of Uzbek-American Relations and Where They Are Pointing
Dr. S. Frederick Starr, Chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program Joint Center
Johns Hopkins University
Uzbekistan at 20: A Time for New Approaches
Dr. Martha Olcott
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Economic Outlook for the Central Asia Region, Including Uzbekistan
David Owen, Deputy Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department, International Monetary Fund
Banking and Financial Sector of the Republic of Uzbekistan: How the Fund Can Help U.S. Investors
Shukhrat Vafaev, Managing Director
Fund for Reconstruction and Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Development Opportunities and Challenges for Middle Income Economies
Country Manager, Uzbekistan
The World Bank
Conclusion & Discussion
End of the Annual Business Forum
Gala Reception hosted by the Uzbek Embassy
1746 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20036
Susan Elliott, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central And South Asia, was schedule to speak, (although was not listed on the public schedule today at State).
Twenty organizations today signed a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging the US government not to resume "business as usual" with Uzbekistan due to persistent and serious human rights problems such as torture and forced child labor.
The groups included human rights organizations Amnesty International USA, the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, Freedom House, Freedom Now, and Human Rights Watch; labor unions AFL-CIO and labor rights groups International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF and The Child Labor Coalition as well as Tashkent-based organizations such as the Expert Working Group and the exile groups Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights.
The activists expressed concern over approval by the Senate Appropriations Committee that will allow a waiver of human rights restrictions under US law to enable US military assistance to the Uzbek government.
“We call on you to stand behind your strong past statements regarding human rights abuses in Uzbekistan,” the signatories said in their letter to Clinton. “We strongly urge you to oppose passage of the law and not to invoke this waiver.” The Obama administration has called on Congress to support the waiver to enable such assistance as bullet-proof jackets for Uzbek law-enforcers.
The language already approved on September 21 will likely be included in an eventual foreign operations bill voted on later this year, barring the unlikely case of any senator willing to hold up the whole bill over Uzbekistan.
In a separate action, about 60 activists staged a picket today in Washington, DC in front of the Hotel W, site of an all-day Annual Business Forum of the American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce (AUCC).
Foreign Minister Elyor Ganiev as well as US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Susan M. Elliott were scheduled to speak at the meeting, which included a number of high-level corporate executives from companies doing business with Uzbekistan, such as Honeywell, General Motors (GM), General Electric, and NUKEM.
Participants in the demonstration included the American Federation of Teachers, Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs, the National Consumers League, the Solidarity Center and the Coalition of Labor Union Women. They were joined by Yusuf Sobirov and his fellow Uzbek emigre community members active in the Uzbek People's Movement (also known as the People's Movement of Uzbekistan).
Judy Gearheart, Executive Director of the International Labor Rights Forum, who helped organize the picket, told EurasiaNet, "We are wherever they are," referencing the AUCC meeting. "This [picketing] will not stop. We will be dogging them until the Uzbek government allows a high-level International Labor Organization delegation to enter Uzbekistan, and we will keep demanding accountability until the practice of forced child labor ceases."
Tashkent has not permitted the ILO to enter Uzbekistan to inspect the cotton fields during the harvest, and activists remain concern about numerous reports of student labor used this year, with children as young as 10 bussed to the fields. UNICEF has been doing a limited amount of observation, but has cautioned that this is not a substitute for the ILO's formal labor rights monitoring, EurasiaNet reported.
On their website notice of the meeting, the AUCC said that recent positive developments in US-Uzbek bilateral relations had been cause for expanding their annual meeting -- a likely reference to the waiver approved in the Senate Appropriations Committee and increasing engagement by the US with Uzbekistan for the sake of the Northern Distribution Network supporting the war in Afghanistan.
After the demonstration was publicized, the AUCC removed the detailed agenda from their website, but it can still be viewed here.
GM has been doing business for years in Uzbekistan and plans to open a new $521 million plant later this fall. Labor activists are concerned about reports that workers from some GM shops have allegedly been sent on "vacation," enabling them to be forcibly mobilized for the cotton harvest by the Uzbek government.
This article originally appeared on the blog Choihona at EurasiaNet.
The independent news site uznews.net reports that children are being out of the cotton harvest.
In the Yukkorichirchick district of Tashkent region, the authorities have informed parents that their young children will be excused from cotton harvesting duties if parents hand over payment of 20,000 soums (around US$8.00).
“People in my own farming collective are quite well off and the authorities expected that they would all pay the 20,000 sum,” said Adelaida Kim, a member of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan (PAU). She said that the cotton harvest had not yet started, and although the youngest pupils are still in school, teachers are already collecting money from them.
“The children won’t be in class for much longer,” says Petr Li, parent of a child at school No.19. “We have been told that once the cotton harvest begins, they’ll close the school, because all the teachers will be out gathering ‘white gold’.”
MORE from uznews.net
Plans are proceeding apace for a picket of a business meeting of the American Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce (AUCC) this week.
On Wednesday, September 28 at noon at the W Hotel in Washington, DC, a number of human rights and labor groups plan to protest the use of child forced labour in the cotton industry as well as other human rights violations by the oppressive regime of President Islam Karimov.
RSVP ONLINE HERE! For more details, visit the International Labor Rights Forum at www.LaborRights.org or contact email@example.com or 202-347-4100.
More information is available now about those speaking at the event at the AUCC.
The decision by the Senate Appropriations Committee to include language in support of a waiver in the foreign operations bill is no doubt among the events indicated by the AUCC in its reference to "positive developments during the recent Annual Bilateral Consultations between the Governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Uzbekistan."
Those "positive developments" are now leading the Uzbek delegation to expand and upgrade its representation.
Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister Elyor Ganiev, who also holds the title of Foreign Minister, will lead the Uzbek delegation. The US is sending an official who is not at the same level, but still sufficiently high: Susan M. Elliott, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia U.S. Department of State.
Other US government officials who will be present at what is now not just a meeting of businesses, but a meeting of political leaders, are Jonathan Ward, Director for South and Central Asia, The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, who will give a report from the US Central Asia Trade and Investment Council meeting; and Danica Starks, Senior Caucasus and Central Asia Policy Advisor, Office of Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia of the International Trade Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce who will speak on the theme "U.S. Government Resources for Doing Business".
David Owen, Deputy Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department at the International Monetary Fund will speak on "Economic Outlook for the Central Asia Region, Including Uzbekistan" and Takuya Kamata, Country Manager for Uzbekistan for the the World Bank will speak on "Development Opportunities and Challenges for Middle Income Economies."
Corporate officials from General Electric, NUKEM, and GM will speak, as will representatives from the state-run Uzbek energy companies, but they are almost overwhelmed by the government heavy-weights.
Dr. Frederick Starr, long a friend to Central Asian governments, will also speak.
Buoyed by the success of the picket to protest inclusion of Gulnara Karimova in New York's Fashion Week, the International Labor Rights Forum is planning a picket next week in Washington, DC as Uzbekistan's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Elyor Ganiev arrives for meetings with the business elite in the capital.
The Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan is infamous for its widespread abuses of human rights and its state policy of forcing children to work in cotton fields across the country. That won’t stop the American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce from advocating for continued business partnerships with the brutal Uzbek regime.
Every year, the government of Uzbekistan removes up to two million children from schools across the country and forces them to pick cotton. Reports continue to flood out of Uzbekistan that children and adults are being forced into the cotton fields right now during the current harvest season. This widely documented, abusive state policy enriches a cadre of elites and fuels a regime characterized as “an authoritarian state” by the U.S. Department of State. Uzbekistan is one of the largest cotton producing countries in the world and cotton harvested there by forced child labor finds its way into the U.S. garment industry. Additionally, the government of Uzbekistan has been criticized for jailing independent journalists and human rights defenders, torturing prisoners and a range of other rights violations.
The US-Uzbekistan Annual Business Forum, sponsored by the American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce, will feature top business and government representatives from the US and Uzbekistan including the Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Elyor Ganiev. Join us outside the US-Uzbekistan Annual Business Forum to call for an end to forced child labor and human rights abuses in Uzbekistan.
RSVP ONLINE HERE! For more information, visit the International Labor Rights Forum at www.LaborRights.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-347-4100.
Two Uzbek rights activists say they were detained by police for taking pictures of schoolchildren picking cotton in the southern Kashkadarya region, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.
Gulshan Karayeva and Nodor Ahatov, members of an unregistered Uzbekistan's Human Rights society, were held by local authorities for 10 hours on September 15 while taking the photos.
"We saw the fourth-graders picking the cotton as we were monitoring allegations of child labor in our region," Karayeva told RFE/RL.
"[The students] pick cotton from the early morning till the afternoon and then they are supposed to go to school afterward," she added.
According to Karayeva and Ahatov, Koson district police destroyed all the notes the pair had taken while observing the child labor, including such things as the names of the children involved.
Karayeva said she initially succeeded in hiding the digital camera card from police before they searched her from "head to toe" and confiscated the card.
Karayeva told RFE/RL they were then warned by police that they would be arrested if they return to the cotton fields.
International and domestic human rights organizations have long charged Uzbek officials with using schoolchildren and university students to bring in the country's annual cotton harvest.
The Uzbek government has repeatedly rejected charges that it forces students to pick cotton.
Several large international clothing retailers have refused to stock garments made with Uzbek cotton because of the use of child labor.
Cotton is Uzbekistan's main cash crop as the country is one of the world's leading cotton producers.
Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
Fashion scenesters in Manhattan today were suddenly confronted with an issue half a world away in Uzbekistan -- forced child labor in Tashkent’s billion-dollar cotton industry.
Driven from Lincoln Center -- the main stage for New York's Fashion Week -- the Uzbek dictator's daughter Gulnara Karimova moved her runway to Cipriani, a prestigious midtown events space, after organizers proved reluctant to associate themselves with Uzbekistan's notoriously awful human rights record.
Labor and human rights activists originally scheduled a picket at Lincoln Center weeks ago when Karimova surfaced on the schedule for Fashion Week, sponsored by Mercedes Benz, which enjoys a lucrative joint venture with Uzbekistan to sell vehicles.
But IMG, the organizers of Fashion Week, said they were "horrified" to learn from Human Rights Watch of the torture and political imprisonment in Uzbekistan as well as the used of forced child labor, the New York Post reported.
A spokesman for Karimova's Guli fashion line said that the show was being relocated "for security reasons," invoking the 10th anniversary of terrorist attacks on the US, the Post reported. IMG did not respond to a request for comment, but the Post quoted sources denying the security angle. Gulnara herself appeared to be missing in action -- disgruntled models and a prominent hairdresser were inconvenienced without the director of their show.
Police requested that a dozen demonstrators at Lincoln Center move across the street from the entrance, making their action less visible. So they decamped to Cipriani, where they found that Uzbek émigrés and members of the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) were already pacing the sidewalk in front of the marbled entrance, chanting "Hey hey ho ho, child labor's got to go!" and "We won't buy it, we don't want it! Uzbek cotton makes us vomit!"
As some demonstrators stood with large posters depicting children hunched over cotton bolls in Uzbekistan, some of the US labor activists' young children, dressed in campaign t-shirts and sandals and carrying bags of cotton, handed out flyers.
Islomiddin Dolimov, a refugee from Uzbekistan and chairman of the US branch of the Uzbekistan People’s Movement (UPM), said he and other group members had driven from Arizona where they now reside. A witness to the government massacre of demonstrators in Andijan in 2005, Dolimov said he had been forced to leave his family behind still exposed to police harassment.
"They are under pressure and summoned to the police for interrogation every week," he said, yet he felt he had to speak out on behalf of the many victims of Uzbek government oppression.
Yusuf Sobirov, another UPM member, said his daughters had been forced to pick cotton since the ages of 8 or 9, and were still mobilized from college to work long hours in the fields.
“Children and students can work from 8 or 9 hours to 14 hours a day, and depending on their age and hours worked, they might pick up to 100 pounds and earn only the equivalent of $2.50 to $5.00 a day -- from which they have to pay for their own meals and transportation,” Sobirov said
Cipriani turned out several rows of security men, the NYPD set up gates and kept a patrol car nearby, and at least one hefty Russian-speaking dark-suited fellow was busy photographing the demonstrators and saying "no comment" to queries about his affiliation.
The faces of many passers-by lit up in recognition when they saw the protest posters -- it turned out they were now familiar with the story of the disgraced dictator's daughter from reading the popular Post. The Post has had the scoop on Gulnara's doings all week. Reporter James Covert, who hadn't covered either fashion or foreign policy in the past, evidently found the convergence of the human rights and fashion topics on his city beat to be compelling.
Many of the fashionably-dressed guests of the Guli show took leaflets from the demonstrators and said they were just becoming aware of the issue, and a few tottering on high heels ducked in embarrassment. One patron began arguing with a protestor about the need for "stability" provided by strong-armed rule. Uzbek officials deny the exploitation of children in the cotton industry, but have refused to permit the International Labor Organization to send in monitors during the harvest season.
An activist who requested anonymity said she had managed to get a ticket to the show and smuggled herself in to the hall. Yet Gulnara -- who cuts an unmistakable figure -- was nowhere in evidence in the half-empty room and never appeared on stage with the models. The activist overheard a Guli representative in heated discussion with an unidentified female reporter, who was finally ushered backstage after indicating she would cover “her side of the story.” The activist described the audience as “mainly an older crowd with many Uzbeks and perhaps some heiresses and maybe some Armani people." Audience members told her they had heard the show was moved due to concerns about “terrorism and 9/11.”
Tim Newman, an ILRF organizer, told EurasiaNet that while this week, Karimova was a focus, he was hoping people would look at the broader goal of ending the purchase of cotton produced using child labor.
"Throughout the last week, we've sent a clear message to Gulnara that we -- the consumers here -- are concerned with what's going on in Uzbekistan," he said.
More than 60 companies and a major apparels association have pledged not to source their cotton in Uzbekistan, says Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN), a commitment activists say is significant.
"The Tashkent cotton fair is coming up in October, so we need to make sure that their suppliers down to the bottom of the supply chain are respecting the ban,” added Newman.
Gulnara’s show fizzled in less than an hour, and reporters and protestors outside were still unable to confirm she had ever been there, as rumors circulated that she was still in Europe.
Katya Kumkova provided reporting for this story which first appeared on Choihona at EurasiaNet.
Radio Ozodlik, the Uzbek Service of Radio Europe/Radio Liberty, has received an urgent plea from students forced to pick cotton in Uzbekistan.
A student at the Faculty of Pediatrics at the Andijan Medical Institute, who gave only his first name, Abdumalilik, writes:
We need help, we are being tormented by fascistic methods. We are taken out to the field at 4:00 a.m. and forced to work for the entire day to pick 100 kilograms of cotton (220 lbs.)
There is no water. Lunch is given at 1:00 pm. We go to bed at midnight. We are woken from our beds at any time in order to hold meetings. The teacher, Khusan Ganievich, is swearing at the students with swear words, which is hard to take.
We ask for help.
Faculty of Pediatrics
Radio Ozodlik, the Uzbek Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has a news story about students forced to pick cotton in Uzbekistan.
Some students from the medical school in Andijon have told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity that they are being forced to work in cotton fields under draconian conditions.
The students said they are allowed only four hours of sleep a night and are required to fulfill a daily quota of 100 kilograms of cotton picked per student.
"We don't have normal drinking water," one student said. "They wake us up whenever they want and force us to go out to the field."
The students added that their superior, Husan Mamadiev, uses obscenities to reprimand those who can't meet the quota. Mamadiev denied the allegations about his conduct when contacted by RFE/RL. He said the daily norm of 100 kilograms was set by his superiors, not by him.
RFE/RL also describes the penalties students face if they refuse to pick cotton:
Javlon Toghaev, a former student at the economics faculty at Gulistan City University, told RFE/RL that he is one of numerous students who was expelled from his university for failing to pick the daily norm during last year's harvest.
Only students from prestigious universities are exempted from the national campaign to pick cotton, says RFE/RL.
Uzbek dictator's daughter Gulnara Karimova had her show cancelled by alarmed organizers of Fashion Week in New York, the New York Post reported yesterday.
But she's not giving up and has been searching for a new venue. According to the New York Post, she has contracted with Cipriani, an upscale restaurant and event space in Manhattan, to put on her show anyway this Thursday at noon, the Post confirmed.
Labour and human rights activists in New York who have been protesting her presence during Fashion Week are now calling on the owners of Cipriani not to allow the show to go on, as a symbol of oppression in Uzbekistan and the use of forced child labour. The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) has organized a petition at Change.org urging foreign embassies that have been contacted not to host her show, either.