Actions for Governments, Companies & Citizens

GOVERNMENTS:

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 TAKE IMMEDIATE AND TIME-BOUND MEASURES TO ERADICATE FORCED LABOR OF CHILDREN AND ADULTS IN THE COTTON SECTOR, INCLUDING: 

  1. Ensure no government official or citizen acting on behalf of the government coerces anyone to pick cotton. This includes children up to age 18, students, public-sector workers, private-sector workers, pensioners, mothers and others receiving public welfare support, and the unemployed.
  2. Ensure farmers can recruit labor by:
    1. setting the price for raw cotton to exceed production costs, including labor;
    2. setting minimum wages for work in the cotton sector sufficiently high to attract voluntary labor; and
    3. publicly advertising on behalf of farmers to recruit unemployed citizens to work the harvest.
  3. Cooperate fully with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to implement all fundamental labor standards, including by:
    1. Permitting unfettered access for the ILO to conduct a survey of the application of ILO Convention No. 105 on the Abolition of Forced Labour and for ILO monitors to monitor Convention No. 105 during the 2014 cotton harvest with the participation of the IOE, ITUC, IUF and local independent civil society;
    2. Permitting unfettered access for the ILO Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour to conduct a survey on working conditions in agriculture; and
  4. Ratify and implement ILO Convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize so farmers and farm workers can form independent organizations to represent their interests, speak out when abuses such as forced labor occur and negotiate for better working conditions.
  5. Establish and implement time-bound reforms of the cotton sector, including:
    1. reporting all state expenditures and revenues from the cotton sector in national accounts that are provided to the Uzbek Supreme Assembly (Oliy Majlis),
    2. ending the practice of re-allocating agricultural lands as a penalty against farmers who do not fulfill cotton quotas,
    3. replacing quotas with incentives, and
    4. de-monopolizing agriculture input markets and sales markets.
  6. Allow independent human rights organizations, activists and journalists to investigate and report on conditions in the cotton production sector without facing retaliation.

2. ALIGN ECONOMIC, DIPLOMATIC AND HUMAN RIGHTS POLICIES

A. As member states of the ILO, urge the ILO to

  1. Conduct a survey of the application of ILO Convention No. 105 on the Abolition of Forced Labour and monitor the use of forced labor of children and adults during the 2014 cotton harvest, and establish a two-way channel of communication with the Uzbek-German Forum and other independent Uzbek civil-society organizations to support information gathering and analysis.
  2. Establish, monitor and report on clear benchmarks for the Uzbek Government, to fulfill its international commitment as a member of the ILO to the application of all fundamental labor conventions. This includes the elimination of state-orchestrated forced labor of children and adults in the cotton sector, starting with the 2014 cotton harvest.
  3. Ensure the participation of the IOE, ITUC and International Union of Food Workers (IUF) as well as the continuous consultation of independent Uzbek civil society in the development and implementation of all monitoring and technical assistance activities in Uzbekistan.
  4. Publicly report findings, activities and recommendations concerning fundamental labor standards in Uzbekistan.

B. 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.

C. The US government placed the Uzbekistan government in Tier 3 in the 2013 and 2014 Trafficking in Persons Reports, accurately representing the Uzbek government’s refusal to make significant efforts to eliminate forced labor. Until it ends the practice, the Uzbek government should remain in Tier 3, reserved for governments that do not comply with minimum standards to combat human trafficking and fail to take adequate steps to address the problem, and requiring consideration of sanctions.

D. Ensure that the government does not support forced labor in Uzbekistan by banning business with any company using cotton from Uzbekistan for national procurement and urge global brands to do implement a similar ban.

E. As member states of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, exercise ‘voice and vote’ to prevent any investment that would benefit the Uzbek Government’s forced-labor system for cotton production.

F. Publicly communicate to companies headquartered in the country and operating in Uzbekistan the importance of fulfilling their human rights due diligence responsibilities, as established in the United Nations Principles for Business and Human Rights and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

G. Include the end of the forced labour system as a condition of entry into the World Trade Organization for the Government of Uzbekistan.

H. In the case of South Korea, the Korean government should make a particular effort to ensure firms headquartered in South Korea 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.

COTTON TRADERS-

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.

APPAREL COMPANIES- 

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:

  1. 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;
  2. 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;
  3. 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;
  4. 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;
  5. 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
  6. 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.

WORLD BANK and ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK

  1. Not approve any new loans to the Government of Uzbekistan for the agriculture and education sectors until the Government ends the forced-labour system by implementing the recommendations herein (see page 1).
  2. Require that the Uzbek government enhance financial transparency and accountability around income from cotton sales as a condition for releasing project loans and publicly report on progress.
  3. Ensure robust and fully independent third-party monitoring of compliance with fundamental labor conventions in the project areas. Effective third-party monitoring of labor rights will require, at a minimum:
    1. A monitoring party entirely independent of any Uzbek government agency and equipped with labor rights expertise, Russian and Uzbek language capacities, and training on how to avoid the Uzbek national security service (SNB);
    2. Unfettered access for the monitors to visit any location at any time and without accompaniment in person or via other means by the Uzbek government or agencies under its control- including the FTUU, Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan, Farmers Association, mahalla committees, and government-funded non-governmental organizations;
    3. Establishing a channel for confidential communications between the third-party monitor and independent Uzbek civil society and continuous consultation of independent civil society during preparations and throughout the project, with the option of anonymity for the Uzbek citizens consulted; and
    4. Public reporting to continuously signal to the Uzbek government that human rights violations will be detected.
  4. Require that the government of Uzbekistan provide journalists and independent organizations unfettered access to the project areas.
  5. Take all necessary measures to prevent reprisals against community members, journalists and independent organizations for monitoring or reporting human rights violations in these areas, for engaging with the Bank’s project monitors, or for filing complaints, including by seeking a commitment from the government that they will not retaliate in any way.
  6. Immediately cease financing these projects if it is determined that state-sponsored forced labor continues in the project areas
  7. Provide remedy, including legal, financial, health and other support, to any person who is subjected to forced labor or other human rights violations in the project areas, through the institutions that the Bank is supporting, or otherwise linked to the projects.

CITIZENS:

Call on the European Union to remove trade preferences for cotton products from Uzbekistan while forced labor continues: CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION.

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.