UNICEF representatives have been officially invited to Uzbekistan to conduct monitoring of reports of the use of child labor, Radio Ozodlik reported.
Jean-Michel Delmotte, the representative of UNICEF in Tashkent, confirmed that the proposal had come from the government of Uzbekistan, the Russian news agency Regnum reported. Delmotte said that the Uzbek authorities promised to give him comprehensive assistance in organizing monitoring of the problem of child labor.
Publications by WikiLeaks of alleged classified diplomatic cables from the US Embassy in Tashkent indicate that UNICEF repeatedly tried to minimize the scale of the problem of forced child labor in Uzbekistan and argued against a boycott, EurasiaNet reported.
UNICEF has not made any comment about the WikiLeaks revelations.
Meanwhile, this year, as in past years child labor in the cotton harvest has been documented by local monitors. The Initiative Group of Independent Human Rights Activists of Uzbekistan reported that in Kashkadarya province, fifth-graders were taken to harvest the cotton.
"The daily quota is 80-100 kilos. For each harvested kilo, 150 soums (about 5 cents) is paid," Surat Ikramov, head of the Initiative Group told Radio Ozodlik.
It is important to point out that while the Uzbek government decided to invite UNICEF to observe child labor, it has refused to invite an independent monitoring group from the International Labor Organization (ILO), however.
Uzbek authorities also continue to interfere with the monitoring of child labor by Uzbek human rights activists. In Koson district, two human rights activists from Kashkadarya were detained by police for monitoring the use of children in the cotton harvest.
In recent years, more than 60 Western companies have pledged not to buy Uzbek cotton in order to compel the government to cease the use of child labor, Responsible Sourcing Network reports. They include Wal-Mart, Marks & Spencer, the Gap, Tesco, Gymboree and others.
The Uzbek government continues to deny that children are forced to work in the harvest.