Uzbekistan: Cotton Campaign ends call for global boycott of Uzbek cotton
On 10 March 2022, Cotton Campaign announced that it had ended its call for a global boycott of cotton from Uzbekistan, following a report published by Uzbek Forum for Human Rights, which found no evidence of central government-imposed forced labour in the 2021 harvest period.
Since 2009, 331 international brands and retailers had declared a boycott of cotton products from Uzbekistan over the use of child and forced labour during the harvest season of raw cotton.
In his remarks, Bennett Freeman, Co-founder of Cotton Campaign, announced this to be “the most significant single country victory in the global battle against forced labour so far in the 21st century." Patricia Jurewicz, CEO of Responsible Sourcing Network and Co-founder of Cotton Campaign, noted it would now be up to individual companies to do their own risk assessments and make their own policy and sourcing decisions.
Although Uzbek Forum’s report found that cotton was harvested without state-imposed forced labor, the monitors found cases of coercion and interference by local authorities, as well as individual cases of forced labor. In addition, independent groups that conduct field level monitoring and capacity building are unable to register and operate freely, putting progress at risk.
The Cotton Campaign urged clothing brands interested in sourcing cotton from Uzbekistan to conduct human rights due diligence to ensure labour rights are respected at all stages of production, and that there are independent mechanisms in place for forced labour prevention, monitoring, grievance, and remedy.