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Report

“Tashkent's Reforms Haven Not Yet Reached Us” – Unfinished Work in the Fight Against Forced Labor in Uzbekistan's 2019 Cotton Harvest

...[E]radication of forced labor in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan remained elusive in the 2019 harvest, despite major progress...[T]he challenges that remain in eradicating forced labor definitively: structural labor shortages in some regions and at some harvest stages and a lack of effective and ethical mechanisms for voluntary recruitment that do not involve government actors or government pressure...Uzbekistan has shown the political will to end forced labor and undertaken an ambitious reform agenda but has yet to establish fully a culture of prevention, accountability for perpetrators, and protection for victims...

Uzbek Forum has conducted independent, community-based monitoring and reporting on the cotton harvest since 2009. In previous reports, Uzbek Forum endeavored to expose forced labor, identify its root causes, and show the scale, impact on institutions, and effects on people forced to work. Here, we seek to contribute to the reform process by highlighting not just positive trends but also by using our depth of knowledge to identify problems and spark a discussion about solutions. As well as documenting the continued use of forced labor, this report seeks to identify the gaps in the reform process which continue to facilitate and incentivize it and provide the basis for a solutions-based approach to finally eliminating the practice...

Civil society plays a vital role in ensuring transparency and accountability, identifying, documenting, and bringing violations to light. While the government has made commitments to allow independent monitoring of the cotton harvest, it has not created an enabling environment for the free operation of independent human rights activists or civil society organizations and continues to interfere with the work of independent monitors, including through arbitrary detention and spurious criminal charges.