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 accept the ILO proposal of technical assistance monitoring during the 2012 cotton harvest. The Cotton Campaign calls on all governments to immediately communicate to the Uzbek government that diplomatic and economic relations depend on its accepting the ILO proposal, as a first step towards ending forced labor in the Uzbek cotton sector. Click here to learn about the status of Uzbekistan at the ILO.
2. DEMAND THE END OF FORCED LABOR IN THE UZBEK COTTON SECTOR DURING THE UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW OF UZBEKISTAN BY THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
On April 22, 2013, the UN Human Rights Council will conduct the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the human rights situation in Uzbekistan. During the first UPR of Uzbekistan in 2008, the Government accepted Recommendations relating to forced labour in the cotton sector and reports on their implementation in its National Report:
Recommendation 26 “Effectively fight against the practice of forced child labour, including by considering taking specific administrative and penal actions towards those officials who, in their respective provinces, incentivize or facilitate the labour of children in the cotton fields (Italy)”;
Recommendation 30 “Immediately cease all public support for the employment of children in cotton harvesting and that the Government publicly condemn and effectively combat all forms of child labour (Germany)”; and
Recommendation 31 “Ensure regular inspection of harvesting practices to monitor and guarantee full compliance with international child labour standards (the Netherlands)”.
Despite these commitments, state sponsored-forced labour in the cotton sector remains serious, systematic and continuous. The Government has not implemented the raft of legislative and policy measures purported to address forced and child labour which it has reported to international bodies. It denies the use of forced labour in the cotton sector, despite its direct responsibility for this practice.
The Government continues to reject calls for full and independent monitoring of the cotton harvest by the International Labour Organisation. Uzbek human rights defenders who attempt to monitor the harvest are subject to harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrest and detention.
3. ALIGN ECONOMIC, DIPLOMATIC AND HUMAN RIGHTS POLICIES
The US and EU 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 should downgrade the Uzbekistan government in the Global Trafficking in Persons Report to Tier III, 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. In negotiations for use of the Northern Distribution Network, the US government should recognize that ignoring human rights positions them against the Uzbek people and on the wrong side of history.
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.
Global commodity traders, banks, investors and other companies involved in the global market of cotton and cotton products should utilize their leverage to generate political will in the government of Uzbekistan to end its practice of forced labour in the cotton sector. Traders, banks and investors send a strong signal to the GOU when they communicate that future business with Uzbek cotton depends on the GOU following the recommendations of the ILO tripartite supervisory body (CAS).
The commodity trading companies Cargill Cotton UK, ICT Cotton UK, Ecom, Paul Reinhart, Sicle, Cogecot Cotton Company, IKEA Trading, Devcot, Copaco all trade cotton, including cotton from Uzbekistan. The control of the cotton sector by the government of Uzbekistan means that business with Uzbek cotton directly finances the Uzbek government, which is responsible for forced labour and repression of its citizens’ human rights. The traders should end such direct financing of the GOU until forced labour in the cotton sector is ended.
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. Communicate company policy on Uzbek cotton throughout the supply chain and ensure that spinners, mills and manufacturers adhere to this policy. Implementation of a traceability program throughout the supply chain is integral to ensuring adherence to the policy. Share the steps taken to ensure that Uzbek cotton is not in the company’s supply chain publicly, to strengthen the global message that business does not tolerate forced labor.
3. Boycott supplier companies that are using Uzbek cotton, including Daewoo International Corporation by implementing the Daewoo protocol (view here), to align business practices with the company’s commitment to human rights. The use of forced labor of children and adults in Uzbekistan is unique because it is sponsored by and for the benefit of the central government, not caused by a myriad of socio-economic development factors. Economic pressure caused by a boycott sends a strong message to the government of Uzbekistan. Since the government has total control of the cotton sector, boycotting Uzbek cotton will directly and solely impact the government and not the farmers or those forced to work picking cotton.
The use of forced labor to prepare fields and harvest cotton violates the labor laws of Uzbekistan and international laws ratified by the Uzbek government, in particular International Labor Organization Conventions No. 105 on the Abolition of Forced Labour and No. 182 on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour. In addition to coercing up to two million people into forced labor in the cotton fields, the Uzbek government system of cotton production impoverishes cotton farmers and profits exclusively the repressive central government. Since Uzbek cotton enters into global supply chains, businesses are responsible for boycotting Uzbek cotton until the use of forced labor in its production ends.
Seventy-five per cent of cotton produced in Uzbekistan is exported through state-owned companies Uzprommashimpeks, Uzmarkazimpeks and Uzinterimpeks, and the remaining 25% is sold to the state-owned Uzbek Commodity Exchange for domestic sales. Bangladesh is the largest importer of raw Uzbek cotton. Uzbekistan is China’s third largest source of raw cotton and fluctuates between the first and second largest suppliers of raw cotton to Germany and Italy. Russia relies on Uzbekistan for over one-third of its raw cotton imports and over 60% of its yarn imports. InUzbekistan, foreign companies and the state-owned Ozengilsanoat Association process Uzbek cotton to produce primarily yarn, fabrics and some garments. South Korean and Turkish companies are major investors in cotton processing and manufacturing in Uzbekistan.
To avoid the risk of slave-made cotton in your brand’s products, companies should ensure that suppliers do not source directly from Uzbekistan or from companies that are invested in the Uzbek cotton sector, such as Daewoo International Corporation. Daewoo International is one of the largest cotton manufacturers inUzbekistanand operates three textile companies in the country: Daewoo Textile Fergana, Daewoo Textile Bukhara, and Global Komsco Daewoo. Daewoo’s Commodities and Textile Division manufactures and trades cotton, spun cotton, fabrics and finished cotton products globally. Buying cotton products from Daewoo companies supports slavery inUzbekistan’s cotton fields. Ceasing business with Daewoo companies worldwide sends a clear message to the government ofUzbekistanthat participation in global business depends on ending forced labor in their cotton fields.
4. Increase transparency by introducing clauses in contracts with suppliers to require identification of cotton country of origin, and cease orders with suppliers that refuse to provide credible information. Authentic country-of-origin information for cotton can be included on bills of lading, purchase orders, packing and inventory lists, incoming material records, production records, and raw materials certifications.
Normalizing raw materials country-of-origin transparency presents companies the opportunity to deliver on their responsibilities to respect human rights. If supply chain management systems already were tracing cotton country-of-origin data, boycotting Uzbek cotton would have applied intense economic pressure on the Uzbek government, which may have ended forced labor years ago. Millions of Uzbek people would have avoided being forced to conduct work in the cotton fields. Until supply chains are more transparent, corporate codes of conduct stand on hollow ground. Raw materials country-of-origin transparency in the supply chain is fundamental to global companies’ due diligence to avoid complicity in slavery in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields.
5. Encourage cotton traders to utilize their leverage to generate pressure on the Uzbek government to end forced labor in the cotton sector. Traders currently trading Uzbek cotton include: Cargill Cotton UK; ICT Cotton UK; Ecom; Paul Reinhart; Sicle; Cogecot Cotton Company; IKEA Trading; Louis Dreyfus Commodities; and Copaco. The total control of the cotton industry by the government of Uzbekistan means that these traders are conducting direct business with the government. Retail and brand companies drive the buying and selling of cotton by traders. Companies should use their position to demand that traders cease buying Uzbek cotton until the government of Uzbekistan ends forced labor in its cotton sector.
By implementing the Cotton Campaign pledge, companies demonstrate respect for human rights throughout their supply chains and specifically pressure the government of Uzbekistan to end the egregious practice of forced labor of children and adults in their cotton sector. Additionally, implementation allows companies to safeguard and enhance their brand by demonstrating active responsiveness and gaining recognition for doing so. Finally, by implementing the steps outlined above, companies reinforce the confidence of responsible investors — who expect companies to address tangible human rights risks — and thereby maintain access to capital that increasingly rewards such commitment and penalizes indifference.
The Cotton Campaign recognizes the steps taken by concerned companies thus far, including public statements, direct communications to suppliers and support for letters to governmental actors. We look forward to working with companies to further develop and track indicators of pledge implementation, including the boycott of blacklisted companies such as Daewoo International, increased supply chain transparency, and engagement of other actors in the cotton industry.
Download these steps here.
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.
CITIZENS: SIGN THE PETITION CALLING ON THE EU TO REMOVE TRADE PREFERENCES FOR UZBEKISTAN TO STOP CHILD SLAVERY
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. CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION.