26
Sun, May

labor rights
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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, forced child labor, and human trafficking, are fundamental concerns that cannot be ignored.
   
 
 
 
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
  
Dear Secretary Clinton:
  
We write to express our sincere disappointment that the State Department once again did not downgrade Uzbekistan to Tier III in the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report, and we call on the U.S. government to urge the Uzbek government to immediately invite the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to conduct unfettered monitoring of the 2012 cotton harvest. In 2011 and years prior, the Uzbek government-controlled system of cotton production forced more than a million adults and children to pick cotton. We are disheartened by the disconnect between the failure to downgrade Uzbekistan and the Uzbek government’s continued and systematic use of forced labor, repression of its citizens who attempt to monitor the situation, and overall denial of the problem.
  
In 2011, the State Department exercised its authority to waive an automatic downgrade of Uzbekistan to Tier III for Trafficking in Persons (TIP), citing a written and funded plan of action from the government of Uzbekistan. Since then, the Uzbek government continued to implement its forced labor cotton production system, consistently denied the existence of forced labor, and silenced citizen monitors. According to reports from non-governmental organizations working in Uzbekistan and academic studies, provincial government offices (khokimiyats) shut down schools and mobilized children and adults -- including employees of a General Motors plant -- to meet the 2011 harvest quotas. According to Ambassador George Krol, with whom we met recently at the Global Chiefs of Missions Conference, the mobilization of adults and children continues to be the prevalent practice in Uzbekistan, and the new inter-ministerial committee of the Uzbek government had not done much. To the contrary, after working with UNICEF in 2011, the Fergana provincial governor attempted to establish and implement systematic monitoring of the harvest, and the Uzbek government dismissed him.
  
Further indication of the Uzbek government’s lack of political will to address this issue has been its continuous and relentless crackdown on independent civil society activists who attempt to monitor the use of forced and child labor in the cotton sector – in 2011 including Elena Urlaeva, Gulshan Karaeva, and Nodir Akhatov, who was again recently attacked for her activism. International non-governmental organizations and foreign media outlets are prevented from operating in Uzbekistan to support Uzbek civil society and report on forced labor and other egregious human rights abuses. The Uzbek government has also failed to follow the recommendations of the tripartite ILO supervisory system to accept a high level monitoring mission and avail itself to technical assistance from the ILO.
  
Next year the State Department will no longer have the authority to waive downgrading Uzbekistan to Tier III status. Currently, Uzbekistan does not meet the standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act for inclusion in the Tier II category. Therefore, this fall’s harvest represents the last chance for the kind of real progress necessary before the State Department is required to downgrade Uzbekistan, under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. The minimum step the government of Uzbekistan should take to avoid that outcome is to invite the ILO to monitor the 2012 cotton harvest. We understand that for ILO monitoring to proceed in the fall, the Uzbek government needs to expedite an official invitation to the ILO. We call on the U.S. government to urge the Uzbek government to demonstrate its intent to abide by its international commitments to end forced labor and child labor by immediately inviting the ILO into Uzbekistan to conduct unfettered monitoring of the 2012 cotton harvest. In the wake of the regrettable failure to downgrade Uzbekistan to Tier III in the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report, it is all the more important that the administration conveys a strong and unequivocal message in this regard.
  
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, forced child labor, and human trafficking, are fundamental concerns that cannot be ignored.
  
Sincerely,
  
The Cotton Coalition:
  
Advocates for Public Interest Law
South Korea
  
American Apparel and Footwear Association
United States of America
  
American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
United States of America
  
American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
United States of America
  
Anti-Slavery International (ASI)
United Kingdom
  
Aquinas Associates
United States of America
  
Article 19
United Kingdom
  
Association for Human Rights in Central Asia
France
  
Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans
Australia
  
Calvert Investment Management Inc.
United States of America
  
The Child Labor Coalition
United States of America
  
Center for Reflection, Education and Action
United States of America
  
Clean Yield Asset Management        
United States of America
  
Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes
United States of America
  
Eileen Fisher
United States of America
  
Environmental Justice Foundation
United Kingdom
  
Ethical Trading Initiative
United Kingdom
  
Eurasian Transition Group
United States of America and European Union
  
European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights
Germany
  
Expert Working Group
Uzbekistan
  
Human Rights Watch
United States of America
  
International Labor Rights Forum
United States of America
  
International Crisis Group
United States of America
  
International Partnership for Human Rights
Belgium
  
Marianist Province of the US
United States of America
  
National Consumers League
United States of America
  
National Council of Jewish Women of Australia Ltd.
Australia
     
National Retail Federation
United States of America
  
NorthStar Asset Management, Inc.
United States of America
  
Open Dialog Foundation
Poland
  
Open Society Foundations
United States of America
  
p.h. balanced films
United States of America
  
Progressive Asset Management, Inc.
United States of America
  
Responsible Sourcing Network
United States of America
  
Retail Leaders Industry Association
United States of America
  
Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia
United States of America
  
Solidarity Center
United States of America
   
STOP THE TRAFFIK
Australia
  
U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel
United States of America
  
Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania
Australia
  
Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights
Germany
   
World Fair Trade Organizations (WFTO)     
Netherlands
  
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