Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 14
By Nigar Guliyeva – Trend:
The systematic use of child labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton harvest has come to an end, and concrete measures to stop the use of forced labor have been taken, reads a new report by the International Labor Organization.
The report Third-party monitoring of measures against child labor and forced labor during the 2017 cotton harvest in Uzbekistan is based on more than 3,000 unaccompanied and unannounced interviews with a representative sample of the country’s 2.6 million cotton pickers.
The ILO has been monitoring the cotton harvest for child labor since 2013. In 2015, it began monitoring the harvest for forced labor and child labor as part of an agreement with the World Bank.
“The 2017 cotton harvest took place in the context of increased transparency and dialogue,” said Beate Andrees, Chief of the ILO’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work Branch. "This has encompassed all groups of civil society, including critical voices of individual activists. This is an encouraging sign for the future. However, there is still a lag between the sheer amount of new decrees and reforms being issued by the central government and the capacity to absorb and implement these changes at provincial and district levels."
The results confirm that the large majority of the 2.6 million cotton pickers engaged voluntarily in the annual harvest in 2017 and that there is a high level of awareness in the country about the unacceptability of both child and forced labor. The report confirms earlier findings that the systematic use of child labor in the cotton harvest has ended, though continued vigilance is required to ensure that children are in school.
Moreover, cotton pickers’ wages have been increased in line with recommendations by the ILO and the World Bank. The ILO recommends that the government continues to increase wages and also addresses working conditions more broadly to further attract voluntary pickers.
Last September, Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev spoke before the United Nations General Assembly in New York where he pledged to end forced labour in his country and underscored his government’s engagement with the ILO. In November 2017, at the Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour in Argentina, Uzbekistan also pledged to engage with independent civil society groups on the issue.
The ILO Third-Party Monitoring (TPM) project in Uzbekistan will now focus on the remaining challenges, particularly the need for further awareness raising and capacity building, which varies between provinces and districts. It will ensure that all those involved in recruitment will have the information and tools needed to ensure that cotton pickers are engaged in conformity with international labour standards.
The ILO TPM Project is funded by a multi-donor trust fund with major contributions by the European Union, United States and Switzerland.
In 2017, more than 2.93 million tons of raw cotton were produced in Uzbekistan, according to the official statistics. Some 3.1 million tons of raw cotton are planned to be produced in Uzbekistan in 2018.