Tomorrow and Friday, the UN body that reviews states' adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, will consider Uzbekistan's latest (third) regular report.
Previous reviews have highlighted the issue of forced child labor, and in fact this year's list of questions that the committee submits to the government ahead of the review specifically asks:
17.1. Please provide information on the effectiveness of the steps taken by the State party to enforce the legal provisions (Rights of the Child [Safeguards] Act of 2008) aimed at eradicating child labor, including very young children e.g. in the cotton industry (previous concluding observations, para. 25).
The government's written reply pushes the art of bureaucratic obfuscation to new heights (or new lows). Inter-agency committees, task forces, ministries of labor and education, the procuracy, all holding meetings, seminars, prophylactic discussions, printing brochures and booklets and posters...a whirlwind, no, a tsunami of activity, all aimed at eradicating child labor. Funny how the three-and-a-half page single space reply avoids mention of the continued, well-documented and widespread mobilization of children for the cotton harvest, on government orders. But what it does mention, several times, is government cooperation with UNICEF:
Together with UNICEF, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection held a round table on August 8, 2009, in which the General Prosecutor's office, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Public Education, the Ministry of Health, the center for specialized professional training, the Council of Federated Trade Unions, the Kamolot movement and the Mahalla Foundation all took part... The Ministry of Labor and Social Protection has signed an agreement with UNICEF on carrying out a sub-project, "Support for the Realization of the National Plan of Action on Child Labor," of the Annual Defense of the Child work plan, which includes: creation of a joint working group; carrying out research on the social protection of vulnerable children; increasing awareness of child labor; developing informational and training materials; carrying out trainings and the creation of pilot centers; developing minimum standards for children with special needs, etc.
Splendid, isn't it? More working groups! More research! The government is hoping that the committee, in a year that human rights activists have found the worst, most exploitive ever for children in the cotton harvest, will take participation in UNICEF-sponsored seminars as evidence of change. The Committee's experts, one hopes, are not so gullible...now if one could only say the same of UNICEF.