NGOs, business and trade union representatives will gather on June 11 in Geneva, the day before the International Day against Child Labor, to talk about ways to halt Uzbekistan's massive annual exploitation of its children. See the program below (with RSVP contact for all those who can attend).
The session will come at the beginning of the International Labor Conference, the ILO's annual gathering, where Uzbekistan was supposed to be selected as a special case for consideration...but foiled that attempt by not registering. Even Burma registers! More on this later.
Forced Labor and Child Labor in Central Asia :
The Way Forward and the Role of the International Community
June 11, 2009
Palais des Nations
(8:00 am arrival for those needing UN badges)
Please RSVP to Ellen Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org
8:00 Arrival and pick up badges at the Pregny Gate of the Palais des Nations - IMPORTANT NOTE - bring your passport
8:30 Coffee and croissants by Room XXV
Welcome and introduction
Welcome by Chair, Aryeh Neier, OSI
Introductory remarks by coalition representatives
1. Perspectives from the region (60 min.)
Bakhtier Abdujaborov ( Tajikistan ), Youth for Civilization
Nadejda Atayeva ( Uzbekistan ), Human Rights in Central Asia
Umida Niyazova ( Uzbekistan ), human rights advocate
Elaine Fultz, independent expert
2. Responses from trade union & employer representatives (30 min)
Svetlana Boincean, International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations (IUF), regional representative, Moscow
Lakshmi Bhatia, Director of Global Partnerships, Gap Inc.
Neil Kearney, General Secretary, International Textile, Garment, and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF)
Chris McCann, Country Manager ( UK ), Asda Wal-Mart
Antonia Cortese Secretary Treasurer, American Federation of Teachers/AFL-CIO; Co-Chair, US Child Labor Coalition
3. Responses from international human rights perspectives (15 min.)
Kailash Satyarthi, Global March Against Child Labour
Simon Steyne, International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labor (IPEC), ILO
Representative, Committee on the Rights of the Child (TBA)
Open Discussion: The way forward and the role of the international community
Participants’ comments invited
Conclusions and recommendations, call to action
If anyone has yet to be convinced that boycotting Uzbek cotton is the right thing to do, they need to listen to the people who are putting everything on the line to call for just that: Uzbekistan's human rights activists, both in-country and political exiles. These are the people whose friends, neighbors and families are affected directly by forced labor, and who risk terrible repercussions (and in some cases, have already suffered them) for their protests. Read their open letter here: http://www.laborrights.org/files/UzbekCottonOpenLetter.pdf
After the first call for a boycott in 2004, many vested interests pushed the argument that farmers and children will suffer most. Anyone who has taken a careful look at Uzbekistan's Stalinist agricultural regime, however, can see the falsehood in that. Let's hope the number of corporations and consumers who take this seriously will continue to grow.
More documentation from the Fall 2008 harvest continues to emerge, this time in a remarkable report issued by the International Labor Rights Forum, compiled by Uzbek human rights activists. Based on 72 original interviews with parents, schoolchildren, teachers and farmers taken just after the harvest was completed, the report lays bare just how vicious state pressure really is.
Cut off families' electricity, gas or water? Deprive them of welfare support payments? Beat the children? Lock up the parents for a couple of days? Shut down their businesses, or fine them? Fire the teachers or principals for not bringing all the kids to the fields? Nothing is too drastic for the Uzbek government, it seems. The next time someone claims that this is all a problem of "local mentality," send them this document.
Link to the report below: