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Eradication of forced labour – striking example of the political will


Thanks to President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s strong political will, a new system of ensuring freedoms and human rights has been established in our country. It was created on the basis of large scale reforms that were carried out to honor human dignity and protect their interests. – Nozim Khusanov (Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Republic of Uzbekistan

The work to improve national legislation and bring them in line with international standards, reforming agricultural and other sectors, widespread application of market principles and mechanization of our industry were also key factors in preventing child and forced labor in our country.

The complete abolition and restoration of all forms of forced labor is one of Uzbekistan’s greatest achievements in the last five years.

The results of the Third Party Monitoring Report (2019) of the International Labour Organization show that Uzbekistan has made steady progress towards eliminating forced labour since 2013. In 2015-2016, the Cotton Campaign forced labour rate was 14%. This number gradually fell from year to year, to 4% in 2020, and to 1% in 2021.

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In 2019, the government increased law enforcement efforts. From 200 to 400, the number of Labour Inspectorate staff contributing to compliance during harvest doubled. During the 2019 cotton harvest, 1,282 cases of forced labour were investigated by the Labour Inspectorate.

ILO monitors also confirmed that wages had increased relative to the previous harvest, which was another effective way to eliminate the problem. In general, cotton pickers received their wages promptly and in full.

It is not exaggerated to state that the International Coalition “Cotton Campaign”, which abolished the global boycott of Uzbek cotton, was an excellent example of large-scale reforms.


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Forcible labour: Legal and institutional reforms

Uzbekistan ratified 19 conventions, 1 protocol of International Labour Organization in order to integrate the international norms into our national laws.

Convention No. Convention No. 29 of the International Labour Organization defines forced labour as any work or service that people are forced to perform against their will under threat of punishment. Uzbekistan was the first Central Asian country to ratify Protocol No. 29 of International Labour Organization on Forced Labour in 2014.

It is important to mention that Uzbekistan’s national legislative system fully conforms with international standards. Article No. Article No. 7 of the Uzbekistan Labour Code defines forced labor as coercion to work under any threat of punishment.

In 2019-2021, 32 legal documents were passed to improve this area. From July 30, 2019, the Presidential decree “On additional steps to further improve the system for combating humantrafficking and forced labor” created a new system to coordinate state bodies activities in combating humantrafficking and forced labor to enhance our country’s image in the international arena.

Uzbekistan’s authorities paid great attention to institutional reforms. The decree established the National Commission, and the National reporteur institute on fighting human trafficking and forced labor. To combat human trafficking and for forced labour, sub-commissions have been established.

To eliminate forced labor, the Republic of Uzbekistan’s legislation established norms that increase administrative and criminal liability.

Implementing criminal responsibility for child and forced labor was one of the most successful measures. The mandatory-volumes system for cotton harvesting was abolished to improve agriculture and reduce state involvement in the cotton sector.

To combat forced labor, measures are taken

The monitoring of forced labour prevention continues. Monitoring of forced labour prevention was carried out with human rights defenders for the first time since 2019. To ensure that cotton fields were open to all, 17 independent observers were issued badges in 2021.

Gleichzeitig wurden Third Party Monitoring of the International Labour Organization, National Monitoring by Federation of Trade Unions and Monitoring of Labour Inspectorate all simultaneously durchgeführt.

Senators and local deputies were responsible for monitoring journalists and bloggers. The monitoring involved representatives of civil society institutions as well as human rights activists.

In 2019, the Uzbekistan media actively covered forced labour issues. The Government encouraged bloggers and journalists to critically cover cases of forced labour. Also, the State Labour Inspectors are now investigating complaints about forced labor.

Monitoring revealed that administrative liability for forced labor was imposed against 259 people in 2019, 132 people during cotton season, 103 people 2020 (41 people during cotton season), and 75 people 2021 (5 during cotton season).

This success can be attributed to the strong political will of President of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the extensive work that was done with active participation of representatives of civil societies, the International Labour Organization, and the tripartite partners of National Commission on Combating Forced Labour.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) announced in Uzbekistan, in 2021, that forced labour and systematic child labour were completely prohibited during the cotton harvest season. It also stated that the Uzbek side was now responsible for all monitoring activities.

The US State Department had previously noted Uzbekistan’s efforts to end forced labour. The international community praised the country’s efforts in this area of reform.

These results offer an opportunity to protect human rights and to develop the textile industry, especially the cotton and textile industries. However, they also impose a greater responsibility to preserve the results achieved, which requires consistent and ongoing work in the field.

It is now necessary to not only combat forced labor but also to monitor the creation and maintenance of decent working conditions in all regions. Any messages and appeals from social networks regarding labour relations should be taken seriously.

A Global Report on Trafficking in Persons was published on June 25, 2020. It covers the situation in 192 nations. Mike Pompeo, head of the State Department, spoke at the Trafficking in Persons Report Launch ceremony. He highlighted the outstanding efforts of Uzbekistan in solving the problem and set a new standard in the region.

Despite the ending of the boycott, Uzbekistan was still in TIER 2 in global reporting such as the “Global Report on Trafficking in Persons (IS State Department), and “The Worst Forms of Child Labour (US Department of Labour).

These reports include a recommendation to monitor forced labour and conditions for working in other parts of the economy, such as silk production, construction, and textile.

It is crucial to strengthen the positions of the international community and to expand cooperation between Uzbekistan, the International Labour Organization, and other countries.

Decent Work Country Programme 2021-2025 was developed in collaboration with International Labour Organization Uzbekistan and adopted in September 2021.

The programme’s main focus is on principles of decent work, reducing informal employment and social protection issues in accordance to international standards.

Not to be overlooked is the fact that the International Labour Organization collaborates with us in the analysis of working conditions in other parts of the economy as well as cases involving forced labour.

A study by the International Labour Organization on the field of silk in 2021 found that there is no systematic involvement in forced labor in the industry. Also, children are not involved with the cultivation of silkworms. Most workers consider the working environment to be acceptable or good, with only 1% dissatisfied about the quality of their food. Three quarters of workers were employed under contracts and satisfied with their wages.

These studies are currently being done in the construction sector. We believe that the quality statistics gathered during the study of working conditions including forced labour will provide valuable information for the development of more effective policies in these areas.

Nozim Khusanov, Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, is the author

of the Republic of Uzbekistan Chairman of the Subcommittee on Combating Forced Labour.

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