November 20 marks Universal Children’s Day. Established by the United Nations over 50 years ago, it is a day to encouragecountries to initiate action to promote the welfare of children. This year Anti-Slavery International is calling upon the government of Uzbekistan to end the use of state-sponsored forced childlabour to collect its annual cotton harvest.
The cotton harvest is coming to an end. Hundreds of thousands of children will finally be able to return to the classroom having been in the field withtheir teachers since mid-September working to meet quotas issued by decree. Children who refuse to take part or who do not meet their quotas are threatened with punishment, such as expulsion fromschool or physical beatings. This is child slavery.
In June this year Uzbekistan was called before the International Labour Organization’s Committee on the Application of Standards, who expressedtheir grave concern at the use of forced and child labour. The Committee urged the government to accept an observer mission to assess their compliance with ILO standards. We are disappointed to learnthat the government refused this offer.
In the 21st century it is incredible to comprehend cotton, most of which ends up in Europe, is being harvested on an industrial scale without heavymachinery, but through the use of state-sponsored child slavery. Uzbekistan is the sixth largest producer and third largest exporter of cotton in the world.
Despite this, Europe gives cotton fromUzbekistan trade benefits under the generalized system of preferences, aimed at developing countries. Anti-Slavery is calling for cotton from Uzbekistan to be temporarily withdrawn from these benefitsand is seeking signatures to our petition to the President of the European Parliament.
In a recent letter to the people of Uzbekistan President Karimov announced this year’s harvest is...