United States urges Uzbekistan to end forced labor
Today the US placed Uzbekistan in the lowest rank in the Global Trafficking in Persons Report, for failing to end forced labor and curb human trafficking in 2012
(Washington) – Today’s decision by the Department of State to place Uzbekistan in Tier 3 in the Global Trafficking in Persons Report (J/TIP) reaffirms the United States commitment to supporting victims of human trafficking in Uzbekistan and around the world, said the Cotton Campaign in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry. The report is an annual assessment of human trafficking around the world and the efforts of individual governments to combat it. The Tier 3 ranking is a statement that the Uzbek government has failed to make significant efforts to end forced labor and curb human trafficking.
“We commend the State Department’s decision to place Uzbekistan in Tier 3,” said Dr. Sanjar Umarov, Sunshine Coalition. “This placement adds urgency to the international community’s calls on the Uzbek government to end forced labor of children and adults in the cotton sector.”
"This finding reinforces the confidence that investors and other stakeholders can have in the Trafficking in Persons Report," said Bennett Freeman, Senior Vice President for Sustainability Research and Policy, Calvert Investments. "State-sponsored forced labor in Uzbekistan continues to be a major concern for the investment community."
In 2012, the Uzbek government mobilized the forced labor of over a million children and adults. Regional authorities enforced state cotton quotas on farmers, under threat of taking their land. While there was not the nationwide shut-down of primary schools, authorities mobilized children ages 15 to 17 nationwide and younger children sporadically. Children forced to pick cotton worked excessive hours, conducted arduous physical work in hazardous conditions and under threat of punishment, including expulsion from school. Government employees – including teachers, doctors, nurses, and soldiers – and private business employees were forced to pick cotton under threat of dismissal from work, the loss of salary, pensions and welfare benefits. Authorities extracted fines from those who failed to meet their cotton quotas. This spring, the Uzbek government is again mobilizing children as young as age 10 and adults to plow and weed cotton fields. On April 19, the deputy governor of Namangan region beat seven farmers for planting onions instead of cotton. As is the case each year during the fall cotton harvest, the forced labor of government employees is once again disrupting the delivery of essential public services, including health care and education.
UNICEF, one of the only UN agencies granted permission to operate in Uzbekistan, issued the following conclusion on the 2012 cotton harvest: “UNICEF’s observations do confirm that forced child labor in Uzbekistan remains a major and extensive problem as it observed in 2012 the massive mobilization of senior secondary school students for weeks at a time in the cotton fields.”
“We applaud the U.S. Department of State for recognizing the serious forced child and adult labor conditions that exist in Uzbek cotton fields,” said Nate Herman, Vice President of International Trade, American Apparel and Footwear Association. “The Tier 3 ranking now applied to Uzbekistan in the 2013 Trafficking in Persons report paves the way for all stakeholders to work toward a positive solution. We look forward to continuing that work with the U.S. Department of State as we move forward to address force child and adult labor in Uzbekistan.
Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the US has discretion to apply targeted sanctions on countries in Tier 3. "We urge the Uzbek government to follow the recommendation of the tripartite International Labour Organization, and reiterated by the United States today, to invite a high-level ILO mission by August 1, to monitor the fall harvest,” said Dr. Lorretta Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer, American Federation of Teachers. “Delays would result in another year in which more than a million children and adults are forced to pick cotton and present a strong argument for the U.S. to proceed with sanctions, as provided for in the TVPA.”
CONTACT: Cotton Campaign Coordinator - c/o International Labor Rights Forum, 1634 I Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20006. +1 202-347-4100, cottoncampaigncoordinator [at] gmail.com