Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) -- On 4 February 2019, a government delegation of the Republic of Uzbekistan led by Deputy Prime Minister Tanzilya Narbayeva attended the annual meeting of the international coalition Cotton Campaign, which was the initiator of the so-called boycott ”against Uzbek textile products.
The meeting was attended by representatives of human rights organizations, manufacturers’ associations, retailers and US trade union structures.
The participation of a representative delegation for the first time in the history of the Cotton Campaign was regarded as evidence of the readiness of the Government of Uzbekistan to open dialogue and constructive interaction on the most sensitive issues of a human rights nature.
Opening the meeting, the founder of the Cotton Campaign, Bennett Freeman, noted that Uzbekistan is in a historically significant reform process and there has been significant progress in eradicating systematic forced labor in the country. It was stated: “We are encouraged by the commitment of the Government of Uzbekistan to put an end to decades of forced labor, and we are currently focused on many aspects of this historic task, which has yet to be accomplished.”
The meeting participants were informed in detail about recent changes in the legislation of Uzbekistan and practical measures taken to prevent and completely eradicate forced labor, create mechanisms to stimulate voluntary labor and support farmers, as well as reform the agricultural sector, agrocluster development and the mechanization of the cotton-growing process.
Separately, they noted plans to strengthen the institutional framework and administrative mechanisms to prevent forced labor, complete transition to market-based cotton production mechanisms, and improve the system of standardization and certification in the textile industry.
The meeting participants also discussed issues of effective implementation of adopted legislation and government decisions at the regional level, suppression of individual cases of unlawful involvement of cotton in gathering, enhancing interaction with civil society institutions and strengthening the trade union movement.
One of the key topics on the discussion agenda was the question of ending the so-called “cotton boycott”. It was noted at the meeting that the corresponding charter of textile retailers and brands is not perpetual in nature and its revision is quite acceptable with the continuing dynamics of transformations and structural reforms. In this context, representatives of the coalition noted the particular importance of achieving meaningful progress during the upcoming cotton harvest season in 2019.
In general, the representatives of the “Cotton Campaign” described the consultations as constructive and expressed the hope that the well-established practice of open dialogue and productive interaction would continue in the future.
“Our discussions were substantive, constructive and positive, affecting both recent significant progress and the main problems to be overcome,” said the head of the coalition, Bennett Freeman.
Judy Gerhart, Executive Director of the International Forum on Workers’ Rights (ILRF), also welcoming the outcome of the meeting, said: “We are encouraged by the dialogue with the Government of Uzbekistan, and we look forward to achieving success, which our diverse but unified coalition has been striving for since 2008”.