The 2013 cotton harvest is underway in Uzbekistan. The Uzbek Cotton Industry Association “Uzkhlopkoprom” estimatesa total harvest of 3.35 million tons, making Uzbekistan the 6th largest cotton producer and 2nd largest cotton exporter in the world. Yet Uzbek citizens continue to suffer human rights abuses under the state-controlled cotton industry.

We are pleased that this year the International Labour Organization (ILO) expects to deploy teams to Uzbekistan to monitor during the harvest. We remain concerned that the ILO monitors will be accompanied by representatives of the Government of Uzbekistan and the official state union and employers’ organizations, whose presence will have a chilling effect on Uzbek citizens’ willingness to speak openly with the ILO monitors. Therefore, we encourage the ILO to make every effort possible to obtain independent information, publicly report all findings and any interference by Uzbek Government, and validate the findings and monitoring process with the International Trade Union Confederation and International Organisation of Employers.

Since 2010 the tripartite ILO Committee on the Application of Standards has recommendeda high-level, tripartite ILO monitoring mission. Such a mission would include tripartite oversight, independent civil-society participation, a mandate to address forced labour and child labour and public reporting. While the ILO monitors will not have unfettered access this year, we will support the ILO in their effort.

Cotton production in Uzbekistan is a state orchestrated forced-labour system. The Government of Uzbekistan forces over a million children, teachers, public servants and private sector employees to pick cotton under appalling conditions each year. Those who refuse are expelled from school, fired from their jobs, and denied public benefits or worse. The Government harasses and detains citizens seeking to monitor the situation. During the Spring 2013, Government authorities mobilised children and adults to plough and weed, and authorities beatfarmers for planting onions instead of cotton. In August, authorities initiated preparationsto coercively mobilize nurses, teachers and other public sector workers to harvest cotton.

Reports from independent Uzbek citizens who document the cotton harvest will be posted regularly at:

http://uzbekgermanforum.org/category/cotton-chronicle/and

http://www.cottoncampaign.org/reports/.

The Cotton Campaign:

Advocates for Public Interest Law

American Apparel and Footwear Association

American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations

American Federation of Teachers

Anti-Slavery International

Aquinas Associates

Association for Human Rights in Central Asia

Calvert Investments

Catholic Health East

Child Labor Coalition

Domini Social Investments

European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights

Expert Working Group

Freedom House

Gonggam Human Rights Law Foundation

Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan “Ezgulik”

Human Rights Watch

International Labor Rights Forum

Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate –

Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office

National Consumers League

National Retail Federation

Open Society Foundations

Responsible Sourcing Network

Retail Industry Leaders Association

Sisters of St Francis of Philadelphia

Solidarity Center

Stop the Traffik Australia

Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, Uniting Church in Australia

United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel

Uzbek German Forum for Human Rights

Walden Asset Management