The World Bank disclosed the findings of the Third Party Monitoring of the use of child and forced labor during the 2015 cotton harvest in Uzbekistan with particular focus on areas where projects supported by the World Bank are implemented.
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The monitoring, conducted by the International labor Office (ILO), has not found conclusive information that beneficiaries of World Bank-supported projects used child or forced labor during the 2015 cotton harvest.
Similar to the 2013 harvest, no systematic use of child labor has been found throughout the country, including in the areas of the Bank-supported projects.
However, both the World Bank and the ILO have serious concerns about the risks of forced labor associated with the widespread organized recruitment of adults for cotton harvesting.
The ILO monitoring concluded, among other things, that robust further steps are required to remove the risks of forced labor, and noted that the existence of such risks has been recognized by the Uzbekistan counterparts.
“The year 2015 is the first time when monitoring of forced adult labor in cotton production in Uzbekistan became possible,” said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia.
“This marks significant progress in our long-term strategic engagement with the Uzbek authorities, which ultimately aims at helping Uzbekistan reform its labor practices in the cotton sector and supporting the diversification and modernization of the country’s agriculture sector more broadly.”
“We are encouraged to see progress in a number of areas, such as commitments to the elimination of child labor, the roll out of an awareness raising campaign and a national Feedback Mechanism, and the impact of the government’s recent commitment to ensure that health facilities and primary and secondary schools remain open and operational during the harvest,” added Saroj Kumar Jha.
“At the same time, we are concerned about the significant risks of forced labor that were identified during the harvest monitoring and will continue working with the government and partners to ensure such risks are effectively mitigated. More needs to be done but we are moving in the right direction.”
Agriculture modernization is one of the priority goals of the Government of Uzbekistan. ■