Uzbekistan is on right track in eliminating forced labor: ILO (Exclusive)

Uzbekistan is on right track in eliminating forced labor: ILO (Exclusive)

Baku, Azerbaijan, June 11

By Fikret Dolukhanov – Trend:

Changing minds and practices of people in regard to forced cotton harvest is a process that can take some time but there is already demonstrable progress and the International Labor Organization is confident that Uzbekistan is on the right track, Chief Technical Advisor for the International Labor Organization in Uzbekistan Jonas Astrup told Trend.

He said that the ILO is pleased to note the strong and clear policy messages on elimination of forced labor from the president of Uzbekistan, the prime minister, the minister of labor and other central government officials.

"There is no doubt what the position of the government of Uzbekistan is: forced labor is not only a violation of the laws of Uzbekistan - it is socially unacceptable and a threat to the human capital of the country. The government is clearly committed to eradicating any forms of forced labor and the ILO welcomes and supports this commitment," Astrup said.

He noted that the regulatory framework in Uzbekistan is robust and comprehensive in terms of prohibiting forced labor.

"Uzbekistan has ratified all eight core ILO conventions and embedded these into national laws and regulations. Even the constitution of Uzbekistan has an explicit reference to banning forced labor," Astrup said.

He said the focus now is on implementation of achieved agreements in the provinces and districts, and this is the most important effort of the ILO at this stage.

He reminded that the ILO Third-Party Monitoring Project is working actively with the government, unions and employers of Uzbekistan to train people at the local level.

"In the last 4 weeks we have trained 7,000 people from every district and province. Participants include representatives of regional and city administrations, ministries, farmer councils, youth unions, education and healthcare institutions as well as civil society. The training is focused on voluntary recruitment for the 2018 cotton harvest." Astrup concluded.

In September 2017, Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev spoke before the United Nations General Assembly in New York where he pledged to end forced labor in the country and underscored his government’s engagement with the ILO. In November 2017, at the Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labor in Argentina, Uzbekistan also pledged to engage with independent civil society groups on the issue.

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.

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Follow the author on Twitter: @FDolukhanov

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