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Joint Letter to Secretary Clinton regarding State-Sponsored Forced Labor and Child Labor

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

FLA joins representatives from other nonprofit organizations, trade unions, the apparel industry and others in calling for an end to forced child labor in Uzbekistan. Read more from the Cotton Campaign.

April 24, 2012 
 
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton 
Secretary of State 
U.S. Department of State 
2201 C Street NW 
Washington, DC 20520 
 
Dear Secretary Clinton: 
 
We write to ask that, as part of your ongoing advocacy on behalf of human rights around the world, 
you urge the government of Uzbekistan to immediately take the appropriate steps to abide by its 
international commitments to end state-sponsored  forced labor and child labor, beginning with an 
invitation to the International Labour Organization (ILO) to monitor the 2012 cotton harvest.
  
Once again in 2011, the government of Uzbekistan fully implemented its state-controlled forced labor 
system for cotton production. As in previous years, the Uzbek government required farmers to grow 
cotton, and local  provincial government offices (khokimiyats) mobilized students from elementary 
schools, middle schools, high schools, trade schools and universities to plant, weed and harvest to meet 
their assigned quotas. According to reports by the the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, local 
observers, UNICEF and reporting by the State Department, the khokimiyats forcibly mobilized labor, 
including children as young as age 10 in the provinces of Andijan, Bukhara, Djizzak, Fergana, 
Kashkadarya, Khorezm, Namangan, Samarkand, Surkhandarya, Syrdarya and Tashkent.
Statesponsored forced labor in Uzbekistan has consistently included adults as well. City and district 
administrators instruct business owners to send their employees to pick cotton. Last year, employees 
from the General Motors plant in Andijan reportedly were forced to take “voluntary vacations” to 
harvest cotton. Local rights activists such as Gulshan Karaeva, Nodir Akhatov, and Elena Urlaeva who 
attempted to monitor the use of forced labor during the 2011 cotton harvest in various regions of 
Uzbekistan were arbitrarily detained and in some cases threatened with prosecution. 
 
The State Department’s  2011 Trafficking in Persons Report  identified negligible progress by the 
government of Uzbekistan to end the practice of forced labor, and it identified the government quota 
system as a root cause of the forced labor system of cotton production. Uzbekistan remained on the 
Tier 2 Watch List in 2011 for the fourth consecutive year, presumably because the Uzbek government 
had “a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to comply with 
the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act’s (TVPRA) minimum standards for the 
elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement the plan” (22 USC § 7107). 
However, according to Ambassador George Krol, with whom we met recently at the Global Chiefs of 
Missions Conference, the Uzbek government has not accomplished much. The 2011 TIP report also 
recommended that the government of Uzbekistan  invite a mission of the ILO to monitor the 2011 
cotton harvest. This did not happen. 
 
In 2012, the government of Uzbekistan has demonstrated no progress toward eliminating forced labor 
and child labor in cotton production. The most  recent plan adopted by the Uzbek government 
essentially calls for self-policing, including a government-organized monitoring of the upcoming 
harvest. At the January 25, 2012 public hearing on the Uzbek government’s continued eligibility for trade
benefits under the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences, Ambassador Ilhom Nematov again 
denied openly to U.S. government representatives  that there was any forced labor, stating, “It's not 
forced labor because, you know, today literacy in  Uzbekistan is 100 percent.” He also denied the 
existence of the cotton production quota system and confirmed that the Uzbek government had no 
plans to invite a mission of the ILO to monitor the 2012 cotton harvest. Given its continued denials 
that forced labor exists and its role in organizing the forced labor cotton production system, the Uzbek 
government’s self-monitoring plan cannot possibly constitute “significant efforts” to eliminate forced 
labor, as required by the TVPRA (22 USC § 7107). As a result, there are no grounds for granting 
another waiver of the legislatively-required downgrade of Uzbekistan to Tier 3 status in the 2012 TIP 
report.  
 
We understand that on May 2-3, 2012, the Uzbek government will convene representatives of the 
United Nations Children’s Fund, the ILO Moscow Office and the European Commission in Tashkent 
to discuss Uzbekistan’s compliance with its international treaty obligations. While the meeting is a 
welcome dialogue, it can only be considered an indication of progress if it results in a formal invitation 
from the Uzbek government to the ILO to conduct unfettered monitoring of the 2012 cotton harvest. 
We strongly urge that in conjunction with this meeting the U.S. government inform the authorities in 
Tashkent that the only way the State Department can justify waiving a downgrade of Uzbekistan to 
Tier 3 in this year’s  TIP report is if Uzbekistan commits to invite the ILO to conduct unfettered 
monitoring of this fall’s cotton harvest. 
 
We thank you again for your support and advocacy in promoting human rights and eliminating forced 
labor and forced child labor. We understand that you have a number of important issues to consider 
with respect to Uzbekistan, but we firmly believe that human rights, including forced labor and forced 
child labor, are fundamental concerns that cannot be ignored. 
 
Sincerely, 
 
The Cotton Coalition: 
 
Nate Herman 
Vice President of International Trade 
American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) 
 
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations  
(AFL–CIO) 
 
Abby Mills 
Associate, International Affairs Department 
American Federation of Teachers 
 
Nadejda Atayeva 
President, AHRCA-France 
Association for Human Rights in Central Asia  
 
Bennett Freeman 
Senior Vice President, Sustainability Research and Policy  
Calvert Investment Management Inc. 
 
Sr. Kathleen Coll, SSJ 
Administrator, Shareholder Advocacy  
Catholic Health East 
 
Reid Maki 
Coordinator  
The Child Labor Coalition 
 
Sukhrobjon Ismoilov 
Expert Working Group - Uzbekistan 
 
Auret van Heerden 
President and CEO 
Fair Labor Association 
 
Jeffrey W. Perkins 
Executive Director  
Friends Fiduciary Corporation  
 
Steve Swerdlow 
Central Asia Researcher 
Human Rights Watch  
 
Judy Gearhart 
Executive Director  
International Labor Rights Forum 
 
Rev. Father Dn. Thomas Johnson-Medland, CSJ, OSL 
CIO 
Lighthouse Hospice Inc. 
 
Sally Greenberg 
Executive Director 
National Consumers League 
 
Erik Autor  
Vice President, International Trade Counsel  
National Retail Federation
 
Jeff Goldstein 
Senior Policy Analyst for Eurasia  
Open Society Foundations 
 
Patricia Jurewicz 
Director 
Responsible Sourcing Network  
 
Gwen Farry, BVM 
Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary 
 
Mary Beth Hamm, SSJ 
Social Justice Coordinator 
Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill 
 
Nora Nash, OSF 
Director, Corporate Social Responsibility  
Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia 
 
Eileen Kaufman 
Executive Director 
Social Accountability International  
 
Bob King  
President 
United Auto Workers  
 
Umida Niyazova  
Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights (UGF)  
 
cc:   Hilda L. Solis, Secretary of Labor 
       William J. Burns, Deputy Secretary of State 
       Robert O. Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs 
       Michael H. Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 
       George Krol, United States Ambassador to the Republic of Uzbekistan 
       Luis CdeBaca, Ambassador-at-Large, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

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