End Cotton Crimes – End Forced Labor of Uzbek Children and Adults
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Ask Nike to ensure that its supply chain is 100% slavery-free
Tell Nike not to support forced labor in Uzbekistan. Click here!
Are you a retailer?
Ensure that your supply chain is not profiting from modern-day slavery in Uzbekistan, by establishing and implementing a prohibition of business with companies that are invested in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan or using Uzbek cotton, throughout the supply chain. Click here!
Do you know where your clothes come from? A lot of the cotton used to make products sold in Europe and in the rest of the world originates from Uzbekistan, one of the world’s largest cotton exporters and one of the most repressive regimes left on the planet.The cotton sold by Uzbekistan comes from modern-day slavery: every year, over a million Uzbek children and adults are forced by their government to pick cotton by hand in harsh conditions. Children are kept out of schools for weeks. In 2012, the government of Uzbekistan forced about one out of every six government employees to pick cotton, including teachers, doctors, nurses, members of the military, ministry offices and others. Among teachers, the percentage forced to work in the fields soared to 60%. Forced workers are threatened with fines and loss of employment, pensions and child benefits if they refuse to work. Profits from Uzbek cotton are controlled by elites close to the government, and the Uzbek farmers and people see none of the benefit.
A lot of the cotton harvested in Uzbekistan ends up in Europe, including in Germany, both directly and through the Asian market. Consumers therefore must expect that they use or wear materials that are a direct result of modern-day slavery.
Since 2009, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations agency responsible for monitoring labour standards worldwide, has called on the Uzbek government to respond to continued reports from workers, employers, and civil society of systematic and persistent use of forced labour in the cotton fields. While Uzbekistan has ratified several ILO conventions against forced and child labour, it continually refuses to allow the ILO inside the country to monitor the cotton harvest.
Uzbekistan’s human rights record is appalling. Beyond state-sponsored forced labour, independent and UN experts have found torture to be widespread and stated that Uzbek citizens are denied basic civil and political rights. Yet western governments’ policies towards Uzbekistan are essentially preoccupied with military and economic interests, rather than concern for human rights. Learn more by watching this conversation with experts and first-hand witnesses. Learn more here.
Germany has a strong historic bilateral relationship with Uzbekistan. For over a decade Germany has rented from the Uzbek government a military base in the city of Termez for tens of millions of Euros, where it hosts thousands of German troops involved in the NATO-led operations in Afghanistan. When the European Union imposed sanctions on the government of Uzbekistan for having shot and killed hundreds of protesters in the city of Andijan in 2005, it was Germany that successfully lobbied for the sanctions to be lifted, despite the absence of any accountability for the massacre.
Yet, a momentum is growing in Germany for human rights to be prioritized in its relationship with Uzbekistan. In October 2012, the German Federal Commissioner for Human Rights, Markus Löning, placed a call for a boycott of Uzbek cotton until state-sponsored forced labour of children and adults is eradicated in the country. This call should be actively followed up by other German government actors with concrete measures, and be accompanied by a change of federal policy towards Uzbekistan that prioritizes the promotion of democracy and human rights. In particular, Germany must firmly support the efforts of the International Labour Organization to fully eradicate forced labour in Uzbekistan.
The German government will soon have the opportunity to officially ask the government of Uzbekistan to respect human rights, and to recommend measures ensuring the elimination of forced labor of children and adults in the cotton harvest; On April 22nd 2013 the UN Human Rights Council will review the human rights situation in Uzbekistan. In 2008, the German government recommended that Uzebkistan “immediately cease all public support for the employment of children in cotton harvesting and that the Government publicly condemn and effectively combat all forms of child labour”. It is now up to the German government to urge for the implementation of this recommendation and to convey that state-sponsored child labor, as well as forced labor of adults, is not tolerated by the international community.
In recent months been working hard to ensure the German government utilises their diplomatic and economic leverage to support human rights in Uzbekistan. With your help, we have successfully put these issues on the their agenda and we are now waiting for a response. To keep up to date and contribute to our future campaigns please sign up for our hasnewsletter.
The government of Uzbekistan can only get away with these crimes as long as clothing companies continue using Uzbek cotton - so major apparel brands have enormous power to end modern-day slavery. This modern-day slavery is no secret to clothing retailers, and as a result many have committed to not buy cotton made in Uzbekistan.
Nike claims to be a champion of human rights, but if that is true, why is Nike doing business with Daewoo International, a company that is knowingly profiting from forced labor in Uzbekistan?
Over 130 apparel companies (including Nike) have taken a stand against forced labor in Uzbekistan by pledging to not buy forced labor cotton from Uzbekistan. Now, Uzbek human rights activists are calling on apparel companies to completely cut ties with companies, like Daewoo, that are profiting from Uzbek cotton.
Unfortunately, Nike, which sources synthetics from Daewoo, is refusing to end its relationship with the South Korean company in spite of the fact that several other companies, including H&M, C&A have moved to cut ties with Daewoo.
Nike’s decision to protect Daewoo sends a dangerous message to other companies and damages the efforts of Uzbek citizens who have risked their lives to bring justice to Uzbekistan’s cotton fields.
Please join Anti-Slavery International and the Cotton Campaign in calling on Nike to take concrete steps to make sure they are not doing business with companies that profit from the misery of children and adults in Uzbekistan.Write to H&M.
As a signatory to this pledge you state your firm opposition to the use of child labor in the harvest of Uzbek cotton and commit to not knowingly source Uzbek cotton until the systematic use of forced child labor has been abolished in the country, with verification from the International Labour Organization.
So far over 120 of the world’s largest apparel brands have shown their commitment to protecting children in Uzbekistan from forced labor. Every signature counts and implementing the pledge helps companies avoid complicity in human rights violations. Businesses that actively implement the pledge will also be applying direct pressure on the government of Uzbekistan to end the use of state-sponsored forced labor of children and adults in the cotton sector. Company inaction risks complicity with slavery as well as damage to the company brand by being linked to fundamental human rights violations in their supply chains. For more information contact Responsible Sourcing Network.
Signing the pledge on its own its not enough, companies need to take further steps to implement their promise.
Ensure that your supply chain is not profiting from modern-day slavery in Uzbekistan, by implementing the following protocol:
- Establish a company policy that prohibits business with companies that are invested in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan or using Uzbek cotton, including explicitly all companies/subsidiaries of Daewoo International Corporation;
- Incorporate language into vendor agreements and purchase orders that prohibits suppliers from doing business with all companies/subsidiaries of Daewoo International Corporation and other companies that are invested in Uzbekistan's cotton sector;
- Require suppliers, suppliers' subsidiaries and suppliers' affiliates to (a) establish a company policy that prohibits business with companies that are either invested in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan or using Uzbek cotton, including explicitly all companies/subsidiaries of Daewoo International Corporation, and (b) incorporate language into vendor agreements and purchase orders that prohibits their suppliers from doing business with all companies/subsidiaries of Daewoo International Corporation;
- Remove all companies/subsidiaries of Daewoo International Corporation from your company's supplier database. Lock suppliers out of your company's supplier database that have not signed the revised vendor agreement and fully complied with point 3;
- Verify compliance with the company policy by incorporating a Daewoo check into supplier social compliance audits; and
- Release documentation of these steps to the Cotton Campaign.