A content of the document suggests that a super-centralized management system based on command-and-control methods, forcing farmers to grow and harvest cotton, as well as compulsory quotas for raw cotton delivery to the state, will continue. The issued decree and its annexes – the Strategy for the Development of Agriculture and the Roadmap for its implementation – do not validate the government’s serious intention to reform the industry.
United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (UN CEDAW) adopted recommendations to Kazakhstan and formed a list of issues for the Kyrgyzstan authorities during the Committee’s 74th session and 76th pre-session.
The participants of the Third Coordination Meeting of the International Labour Rights Monitoring Mission for Central Asia convened in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) on November 14 through 16, 2019, representing independent trade union and human rights organisations of Belarus, France, Germany, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, the USA, and Uzbekistan, exchanged opinions and information concerning the developments in the region in 2019 and pointed out the persistently grave situation in the Central Asian countries in terms of respect for the labour rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the core Conventions of the International Labour Organisation, along with the widely spread use of forced and child labour in the region, discrimination, particularly, against women and migrant workers, and restrictions imposed on the activities of independent trade unions and efforts to defend labour rights.
Farmers are forced to grow it. Teachers are forced to pick it. And though everyone loses, the government still thinks cotton will fix its lopsided balance of trade.
There are considerable differences with regard to forced labor in Uzbekistan and Xinjiang, but there is an underlying corporate responsibility to not engage in human rights abuses.
The Cotton Campaign met with the government of Uzbekistan in Washington last week to discuss reform efforts to end forced labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton harvest, which is currently underway. The Uzbek delegation, headed by Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade Sardor Umurzakov, presented its Roadmap to combat forced labor, which seeks to address the key concerns raised by the Cotton Campaign in its dialogue with the government.
The ITUC is calling for the release of Erlan Baltabay, a leader of the Independent Oil and Energy Workers’ Union in Kazakhstan, who has been returned to prison to serve a new 5-month term. Baltabay was released from prison in August, following a special decree by Kazakhstan’s President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, that he be released on humanitarian grounds.
Under the blazing sun in a cloudless blue sky, green foliage droops with unfurling white cotton bolls. In the Fergana Valley in the heart of Central Asia, in the shadow of snow-dusted mountains, the cotton is ripe for picking. If the Uzbek authorities have their way, it will become t-shirts and skirts, to be sold around the world. Uzbekistan, already the world’s seventh-biggest producer of cotton, wants to become a force in the garment industry, too, on a par with the likes of Bangladesh, China and Vietnam.
The Cotton Campaign calls on the Uzbek government to drop criminal charges against Mahmud Rajab, a poet, journalist, and human rights defender, whose trial on contraband charges is set to begin Thursday. The government should also stop interfering with independent reporting on human rights issues, including forced labor.
In spite its rhetoric on reform, Uzbekistan is failing to overcome its habit of resorting to authoritarian practices when silencing critics. Highly secretive closed-door trials remain a familiar feature, and relatives of defendants can still expect to be threatened by security services operatives.