It is incumbent on governments to utilize their diplomatic and economic leverage to build political will in the government of Uzbekistan to end the forced labor system.
1. CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT OF UZBEKISTAN TO INVITE THE INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANISATION TO MONITOR THE COTTON HARVEST.
Effective monitoring is the first step towards ending forced labor in the Uzbek cotton sector. The end of July is the deadline for the Uzbek government to invite the ILO to monitor during the 2013 cotton harvest. The Cotton Campaign calls on all governments to immediately communicate to the Uzbek government that diplomatic and economic relations depend on its inviting the ILO, as a first step towards ending forced labor in the Uzbek cotton sector, under appropriate terms for an effective mission, including:
- Tripartite oversight and selection of monitors by the ILO, IOE and ITUC;
- Participation of independent Uzbek civil society;
- The scope of monitoring includes forced labour and the worst forms of child labour;
- Unfettered access for monitoring all situations related to the cotton industry;
- Examination of multinational enterprises operating in the cotton and textile industries or otherwise involved in the cotton harvest; and
- The findings and recommendations are reported publicly.
2. ALIGN ECONOMIC, DIPLOMATIC AND HUMAN RIGHTS POLICIES
The United States government and European Union should withdraw generalized system of preferences for Uzbekistan until the Uzbek government demonstrates that it meets GSP conditionality to protect fundamental human rights.
The US government downgraded the Uzbekistan government in the 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report to Tier 3, accurately representing the Uzbek government’s refusal to make significant efforts to eliminate forced labor.
The government of Germany should follow the lead of the German Federal Commissioner for Human Rights Markus Löning, who called for a boycott of Uzbek cotton until state-sponsored forced labor is ended, by prioritizing human rights in federal policy towards Uzbekistan.
The Government of the Republic of Korea should require firms headquartered in South Korea to meet their human rights due diligence duties in their operations in Uzbekistan. While all governments have a responsibility to take steps to ensure that businesses headquartered in their country respect human rights throughout their operations, the risk of inaction is particularly high for South Korea. Korean businesses account for an estimated 30% of investment in Uzbekistan’s textile sector. Not only is Daewoo International Corporation processing more cotton in Uzbekistan than any other firm, but the Korean state-owned enterprise Korea Minting & Security Printing Corporation (KOMSCO) is producing cotton pulp in Uzbekistan that is used to produce currency for the Republic of Korea.
COMPANIES: TAKE ACTION TO END SLAVERY IN SUPPLY CHAINS
Businesses have a responsibility to conduct due diligence that ensures human rights are respected in their supply chains, even if they have not contributed directly to the rights violation. Since slavery-like practices are used in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields, businesses must avoid using Uzbek cotton in their supply chains until the use of forced labor in the Uzbekistan cotton sector is ended. Implementing the Cotton Campaign pledge helps companies avoid complicity in human rights violations. Businesses that actively implement the pledge will also be applying direct pressure on the government of Uzbekistan to end the use of state-sponsored forced labor of children and adults in the cotton sector. Company inaction risks complicity with slavery as well as damage to the company brand by being linked to fundamental human rights violations in their supply chains.
In September 2012 the French cotton trading company Devcot stopped purchasing Uzbek cotton until forced labour of children and adults is eradicated, in alignment with the determination by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) National Contact Point (NCP) of France that such trade violates international standards for multinational corporations. Other cotton trading companies – including Olam, Otto Stadtlander GmbH, Cargill Cotton UK, ICT I Cotton Ltd., Ecom Agroindustrial and Paul Reinhart - have refused to follow Devcot’s lead. The control of the cotton sector by the government of Uzbekistan means that business with Uzbek cotton directly finances the Uzbek government. The traders should end such direct financing until government of Uzbekistan ends forced labour in the cotton sector.
1. Sign the Company Pledge against forced labor of children and adults in the cotton sector of Uzbekistan. Signing the Pledge demonstrates a company commitment to respecting human rights and is also an important public denunciation of forced labor. However, this is the very first step. Therefore, after signing the Pledge, companies must follow up with actions to implement the commitment.
As of March 2013, 131 brands have signed the Pledge, which states:
We, the undersigned companies are working to ensure that forced child labor does not find its way into our products. We are aware of reports documenting the systemic use of forced child labor in the harvest of cotton in Uzbekistan. We are collaborating with a multi-stakeholder coalition to raise awareness of this very serious concern, and press for its elimination.
As a signatory to this pledge, we are stating our firm opposition to the use of forced child labor in the harvest of Uzbek cotton. We commit to not knowingly source Uzbek cotton for the manufacturing of any of our products until the Government of Uzbekistan ends the practice of forced child labor in its cotton sector. Until the elimination of this practice is independently verified by the International Labour Organization, we will maintain this pledge.
2. Implement the Pledge:
- Establish a company policy that prohibits the use of Uzbekistan’s cotton and prohibits business with companies that are either invested in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan or using Uzbekistan’s cotton, including explicitly all companies of Daewoo International Corporation, Indorama Corporation, and others operating in Uzbekistan and listed here;
- Implement the company policy on Uzbekistan’s cotton by incorporating language into vendor agreements and purchase orders that effectively prohibits suppliers from doing business with all companies that are either invested in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan or using its cotton;
- Require suppliers, suppliers’ subsidiaries and suppliers’ affiliates to (a) establish a company policy that prohibits the use of cotton from Uzbekistan and prohibits business with companies that are either invested in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan or using its cotton, including explicitly all companies of Daewoo International Corporation, Indorama Corporation, and those companies identified as operating in Uzbekistan listed here, and (b) implement the company policy on Uzbekistan’s cotton by incorporating language into vendor agreements and purchase orders that effectively prohibits their suppliers from doing business with all companies that are either invested in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan or using its cotton;
- Remove all companies of Daewoo International Corporation, Indorama Corporation, and companies operating in Uzbekistan listed here from the company’s supplier database. Lock suppliers out of the company’s supplier database that have not signed the revised vendor agreement and fully complied with point 3;
- Verify compliance with the company policy by incorporating a check on implementation of the ban on business with companies that are either invested in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan or using its cotton into supplier social compliance audits; and
- Release documentation of these steps publicly.
COMPANIES OPERATING IN UZBEKISTAN
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 companies that are directly invested in Uzbekistan 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.
Call on the European Union to remove trade preferences for cotton products from Uzbekistan while forced labor continues: CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION.
The single biggest destination for Uzbek cotton is the European market. Despite strong condemnation from the European Union over the use of child slavery in Uzbek cotton production, the EU continues to allow the Government of Uzbekistan to benefit from reduced trading tariffs for its cotton imports to the EU despite its own rules that these benefits should be withdrawn.
Join tens of thousands of concerned citizens in calling upon the European Union to implement its own rules and immediately remove Uzbekistan’s preferential trade tariffs for cotton imported to the EU in light of the ongoing use of state-sponsored child slavery in the country’s cotton industry.
Ask the South Korean state-owned KOMSCO to stop buying forced-labor cotton from Uzbekistan, which it uses to make Korean currency: CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION.