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TASHKENT – A new agreement between Uzbekistan’s textile industry, rights groups and government aims to improve working conditions and prevent forced labour in domestic textile and cotton industries. Signatories include the US-based Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), the Association of Cotton-Textile Clusters of Uzbekistan, the Solidarity Center and the Uzbekistan Ministry of Employment.

The ‘Enhancing Transparency and Accountability in the Cotton Industry of Uzbekistan’ project will be implemented by CIPE and the Solidarity Center, and is funded by the US Department of Labor.

The two-year memorandum of cooperation is the part of a new CIPE-Solidarity Center project that was launched at a public event in Tashkent in December.

“The Solidarity Center looks forward to working with CIPE and the Cluster Association to support development of a cotton industry in Uzbekistan that is recognized and rewarded in the global marketplace for upholding labor standards at the highest levels,” said Solidarity Center executive director Shawna Bader-Blau at the launch.

Project goals include to expand stakeholder dialogue to promote transparent market and management standards and employee-oriented accountability systems; establish trust and dialogue among cotton purchasers, producers, workers and the government of Uzbekistan; strengthen Uzbekistan’s cotton supply chain workers’ capacity to identify and resolve labour rights violations through tripartite mechanisms and improved dialogue with employers; improve compliance with international labour standards, including freedom of association and corporate governance provisions; and foster cotton industry sustainability in ways that ensure labour rights are respected and protected.

Programme activities will include developing and piloting worker-led grievance and remedy mechanisms, training workers, managers and employers in the cotton industry on international labour standards, and promoting standards of transparency and commitment to labour rights and good corporate governance.

“We believe that our partnership will support the creation of effective management systems and serves to strengthen social protection, improve labor relations based on international standards and create decent and safe working conditions for workers,” said CIPE managing director for programmes Abdulwahab Alkebsi at the launch.

After years of intense policy advocacy and campaigning, led by Uzbek and international civil society, state-imposed forced labor is no longer used in the cotton harvest. As a result, in March 2022, the Cotton Campaign ended its call for a global boycott of cotton from Uzbekistan and lifted the Uzbek Cotton Pledge.

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