140 Uzbek rights advocates denounce forced child labour on cotton farms - some retailers stop sourcing

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19 January 2008

Uzbekistan: Cotton Industry Targeted By Child-Labor Activists

Author: Gulnoza Saidazimova, Radio Free Europe

In an open letter on January 17, some 100 Uzbek dissidents and activists abroad and 40 in the country say the forced use of child labour in the Uzbek cotton industry has become a "deliberate state policy"…[T]he letter…says that in recent years forced child labor has spread on a "mass scale," and that working conditions for thousands of minors who toil in Uzbek fields have worsened… Following the expose [by the BBC’s ‘Newsnight’ programme], several international companies said they would stop buying Uzbek cotton…H&M, Finland's Marimekko, and Estonia's Krenholm [part of Boras Wäfveri] were the first. This week, they were joined by…Tesco…and by Marks and Spencer…The International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC), a U.S.-based group that promotes the world cotton trade, called the allegations by Uzbek activists "exaggerated" and "absurd."…[One of the letter's signatories, Nadejda Atayeva, head of Association on Human Rights in Central Asia] said this week's statement was partly in response to the ICAC's reaction to the original call for a boycott.

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17 January 2008

[PDF] Once more on the boycott of Uzbek cotton and the forced child labour in Uzbekistan: Open letter

Author: Civil society activists of Uzbekistan to European Council, US Administration, Intl. Cotton Advisory Committee, UNICEF & ILO

We are writing to you following the reaction of certain international organizations to our previous call for the boycott of Uzbek cotton and to media reports that raised the issue of forced child labor in Uzbekistan. In the current statement we would like to reiterate our call to boycott Uzbek cotton and present new signatures in its support…We have received an official reply to our petition from Mr. Terry P. Townsend, Executive Director of the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC). While we are grateful to Mr. Townsend for his quick response, we would still like to question a number of statements in his letter.

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30 November 2007

[PDF] Letter to Civil Society Activists of Uzbekistan

Author: International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC)

Thank you for ensuring that the Secretariat of the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) received a copy of your call for a boycott of Uzbek cotton. We take your allegations of forced child labor and chemical exposure seriously...The allegations of forced child labor in cotton production in Uzbekistan have been circulating for many years. Most in the cotton industry, including myself, have shrugged off these allegations because they have seemed exaggerated at best, and perhaps even absurd.

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15 November 2007

[PDF] Purge the Uzbek cotton of the stains of forced child labour!

Author: Civil society activists of Uzbekistan

The practice of forced child labour is continuing in Uzbekistan since the Soviet times. Not only has it not been still abolished since then, but on the contrary, has become even more horrific… In order to break this vicious system, it is necessary to deprive those who control the export of cotton in Uzbekistan of their unfair excess profits. Only an international boycott of Uzbek cotton could reach that goal. The boycott will force the Uzbek government to repeal child labor and provide farmers real economic freedom. The cotton sector in Uzbekistan could be profitable without the exploitation of child and forced labor.

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