July 07, 2016
Author: Christopher Cox
The Human Thread has endorsed a letter from the Cotton Campaign that urges the World Bank to take vital steps to end the forced labor in the Uzbek cotton industry. A coalition comprised of human rights organizations, trade unions, socially responsible investors and business associations, the Cotton Campaign works to end forced labor of children and adults in the cotton industry in Uzbekistan. Last year, Uzbekistan earned $835.4 million in cotton exports, eleventh among countries world-wide. A detailed report, “The Cover-Up: Whitewashing Uzbekistan’s White Gold,” documents systemic abuses in the supply chain from that same year.
Clearly, additional steps must be taken by those with leverage to bring about change. Therefore, The Human Thread joins with the Cotton Campaign in calling upon the World Bank to take six steps for action in Uzbekistan:
The World Bank Group is providing more than $500 million in financing to the government of Uzbekistan for its agriculture sector and additional financing to multinational companies processing forced-labor cotton in Uzbekistan.
Suspend disbursements until the Uzbek government demonstrates meaningful progress reforming the root causes of forced labor, its financial system that incentivizes officials to use coercion and repression of citizens who report violations
Engage and work with the Uzbek government to develop and implement a time-bound plan to reform root causes of forced labor in the agriculture sector, including the steps recommended to the government here
Ensure robust and fully independent third-party monitoring of compliance with core labor conventions in the project areas
Establish a confidential and accessible grievance mechanism and provide effective remedies, including legal and financial, to any person who is subjected to forced labor in the project areas
Take all necessary measures to prevent reprisals against community members, journalists, and independent organizations for monitoring or reporting on human rights violations in these areas, for engaging with the Bank’s project monitors, or for filing complaints, including by seeking an enforceable commitment from the government that it will not interfere with independent reporting and engagement
Raise concerns about the safety and access of independent monitors publicly and at the highest levels and make clear that their ability to work unimpeded is a vital sign of the government’s good faith and requirement for World Bank financing