After reviewing the report from its Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, the International Labour Organization's Committee on Application of Standards discussed the case of Uzbekistan on June 6, observers reported.
As a result of ongoing concerns about forced child labor in Uzbekistan, the ILO Committee will likely include a paragraph in its conclusions that will flag Uzbekistan as an egregious case of violations of ILO conventions including no. 182, "the worst forms of child labour."
The delegation from the government of Uzbekistan included Botir Alimukhamedov, first deputy minister of labour and social protection, and the ubiquitous Akmal Saidov, director of the National Human Rights Centre, who is dispatched to every international meeting to reply to criticism of Uzbekistan's human rights record.
The Uzbek officials countered the ILO Committee's concerns by saying that it had national laws and action plans to implement ILO conventions nos. 182 and 138 on the worst forms of child labor. They also claimed that with a literacy rate of 99 percent and the government spending 10 percent of the GDP on education and health, along with compulsory education until the age of 12, the factors were not present for child labor in their country.
The Uzbek government also made the claim that high levels of GDP growth are usually associated with lower levels of child labor -- a fact not independently confirmed for Uzbekistan -- and cited a GDP growth figure of 8.5 percent, based on state statistics also not independently verified.
Employers organizations and trade unions countered with references to the numerous and credible reports regarding the systemic mobilization of school children for the harvest.
Delegations from the usual allies of Uzbekistan made statements in support of Tashkent -- Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Belarus, Russia, Singapore, Cuba, Venezuela, Pakistan and China --as well as the Uzbek state-controlled unions
Delegations from the governments of the EU states, US, and Canada as well as and workers from the US and Germany made statements in support of the employers and workers, i.e. expressed concern about ongoing reports of the use of forced child labour.
The Uzbek government delegation thanked the ILO Committee for its "cooperative spirit" and reiterated that it had only signed convention no. 182 just three years ago, and was working on implementing it with monitoring and prevention.
In their closing remarks, the employers and workers again reiterated their call for access to Uzbekistan of an ILO mission to assess the situation and for a report to be made, and also called for technical assistance and work with the ILO IPEC program.
Some activists were concerned that if IPEC began working with the government of Uzbekistan first, this could preclude or delay the mission to Uzbekistan during the cotton harvest, and serve as a diversion from the Uzbek government's need to tackle the issues in good faith.
The government of Uzbekistan has not responded to the ILO's request to send a mission during the cotton harvest season this fall.