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WASHINGTON – The US is being urged to reverse its recent proposal to remove Uzbekistan cotton from a list of products that may have been produced by forced or child labour. The Cotton Campaign and its members have written to the US Department of Labour suggesting Uzbekistan, boycotted by many international apparel brands, remains a sourcing risk. Human Rights Watch, the American Apparel and Footwear Association and Anti-Slavery International are among signatories to the letter.

Says the letter: “As you know, in recent years the Government of Uzbekistan, due in part to pressure from the U.S. Government and civil society, has made major strides towards ending forced child labor during the annual cotton harvest. We are also encouraged by President of Uzbekistan’s public acknowledgement of the scale of the forced labor problem and commitment to adopting the reforms required to end the practice. During official delegation, the Cotton Campaign presented a roadmap with steps for the government of Uzbekistan to follow to dismantle the forced labor system of cotton production to government officials during high-level meetings in Tashkent in May 2018.

“Despite recent progress, cases of forced child labor still occurred during the 2017 harvest and local school administrators and teachers remained under pressure to force children into the fields to meet their annual cotton quotas. As a result, it is premature to remove Uzbek cotton from the EO13126 list until it can be verified that the Uzbek government has fully enacted the reforms to eliminate the drivers of forced child labor, particularly subjecting public school officials to production quotas.”

The Cotton Campaign is an international, multi-stakeholder coalition of non-governmental organisations, trade unions, apparel brands and socially responsible investors dedicated to eradicating child and forced labor in cotton production.

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