Uzbek Citizens Call to "Boycott Uzbek Textile and Companies Using It"
"We, the undersigned citizens of Uzbekistan, call for an international boycott of Uzbek textile and companies that use it. For the Uzbek textile is produced of cotton harvested using forced labour of children and adults. Foreign investors and partners of Uzbek textile companies must comply with international human rights standards, and press for the Uzbek government to respect human rights. Only independent monitoring by the International Labour Organization can confirm when Uzbekistan ceases the practice of forced labour. We urge the European Union and the United States of America to cancel the trade benefits for Uzbek textile manufacturers, provided by the General System of Preferences. Below is a list of companies in Uzbekistan that feed cotton products into supply chains of Western companies. We call for a boycott.
Throughout the post-Soviet period Uzbekistan has not stopped the practice of large-scale forced mobilization of school children, students, employees of enterprises, government agencies and public sector workers to harvest cotton. Under orders from the central government executed by the district and provincial authorities, an estimated two million school children and adults are mobilized every autumn for two months to harvest the cotton. School children and academic year is interrupted, and they work in the cotton fields with no days off. Adults follow orders under threat of punishment, including dismissal from their jobs, losing social security benefits, and fines. Ratification of fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) № 29, 105, 138, 182 by Uzbekistan, which prohibit forced labour and child labour, and the adoption of certain legislation to protect the rights of children has not lead to the cessation of forced labour.
Cotton is the main agricultural crop exported by Uzbekistan, and it brings one billion U.S. dollars to the government budget. However, we Uzbek citizens have no access to the information on how the earnings from the export of cotton are used.
The research, mass media coverage of forced labour in Uzbekistan, and the repeated calls made by international organizations to stop the practice of forced labour are not bringing positive outcomes. Appeals to allow the ILO mission to examine the implementation of the country’s international obligations under the four conventions mentioned above are always rejected by the Uzbek government. To fulfil its obligations under these conventions, the Uzbek government will need to dismantle the command system in the cotton sector of the economy, which relies on forced labour. Farmers and their families become victims and hostages of the command economy. The Uzbek government sees no benefit in real agricultural reforms, preferring the old practice, dating back to the days of Stalin.
Since September 2012, we are receiving new reports of forced mobilization of students, doctors, teachers and other groups of citizens for the cotton harvest. The practice of forced labour continues, because the international pressure remains imperceptible for the government of Uzbekistan.
Since 2007, we have been calling for an international boycott of Uzbek cotton, and a number of international companies have supported it. More than 80 companies signed a pledge that they will not knowingly source Uzbek cotton until the government of Uzbekistan ends the practice of forced child labour in its cotton sector. However to identify the country of origin of the cotton in a huge trade flow is technically very difficult, a reality which is well used by the Uzbek government. We therefore call for the start of the next phase of the campaign against forced labour in Uzbekistan - a boycott of Uzbek textile and companies using it.
According to our data, annually more than 250,000 tons of cotton fibre is sold in Uzbekistan to locally-based textile companies. The biggest part of this cotton is obtained by the companies with a foreign capital - joint ventures or subsidiaries of foreign companies. There are at least 50 of these companies. Their products, e.g. yarn and fabrics, are intended for export to global textile and apparel supply chains, and thereby enter Europe and the U.S. In the appendix we provide a complete list of these companies with information identifying their foreign partners.
The list is headed by the enterprises founded by Korean companies who are the largest buyers of Uzbek cotton and textile manufacturers. First of all, these are the enterprises owned by Daewoo International. Its subsidiary “Daewoo Textile Fergana” buys the largest quantity of cotton of any company in the country’s cotton processing industry - about 30,000 tons per year. On the second place is “Daewoo Textile Bukhara” (10,000 tons a year). In addition, there are two more Korean enterprises, LLC «Hain Tex» in Namangan and «Senas Textile» in Andijan. Given the magnitude of Korean investment in the textile industry of Uzbekistan (46,500 tons of cotton purchased per year), it is hard to imagine that they were carried out without the participation of the South Korean government and its embassy in Uzbekistan. The South Korean government is informed of the situation of forced labour in the cotton sector of Uzbekistan and the international campaign for its cessation; however, it has not warned Korean companies about the risks of conducting business with Uzbek cotton and cotton products. Therefore, along with Korean companies the responsibility to boycott Uzbek cotton is shared with the government of South Korea.
We call for a boycott of the entire textile production of Daewoo International as the largest investor in the textile industry in Uzbekistan. Daewoo has to do everything possible to put the pressure on the Uzbek government to bring an end to the slavery in the cotton fields of our country. This is the way forward towards making Uzbekistan’s cotton production comply with the international social standards of business conduct, approved by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, of which South Korea is a member state.
Turkey is the second biggest investor in the Uzbek textile industry. In our country, there are about 11 textile companies with Turkish capital. The largest of them is “Osborn Textile”, owned by Tarmac Group. This company purchases 10,000 tons of Uzbek cotton per year. Below is a full list of companies in Uzbekistan that feed cotton products into supply chains of Western companies.
Our call is primarily addressed to the companies that have confirmed their desire to exclude Uzbek cotton from their supply chain, by signing the Cotton Pledge. This is possible through blacklisting the textile companies indicated on our list. We encourage other enterprises - trading companies, apparel companies and business associations, especially in Europe and North America – to follow their example.
We call upon the European Commission and the U.S. Administration to withdraw Uzbekistan, its cotton and textile, from the General System of Preferences, which provides trade incentives, until the Uzbek government demonstrates that it meets GSP conditionality to protect fundamental human rights.
The boycott of Uzbek cotton and companies using it should continue until the ILO has completed its monitoring and Uzbekistan ends the practice of forced labour. The Uzbek government must show the political will and within one year abolish the practice of exploitation. It is in the interests of the Uzbek people, socio-economic development and the international reputation of our country."
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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