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Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights (UGF);
The 96-page report, "'We Pick Cotton Out of Fear': Systematic Forced Labor and the Accountability Gap in Uzbekistan," details how the government forced education and medical workers, other public sector employees, private sector workers, people receiving benefits, and some college and university students to pick cotton involuntarily. People faced consequences, including dismissal, loss of salary or benefits, and other punishments if they refused to pick cotton or failed to work hard enough. People could only avoid picking cotton if they paid for a replacement worker to pick for them. The Uzbek-German Forum also documented unprecedented levels of extortion of money from citizens to pay for replacement workers and cotton, including the extortion of money from public sector employees ostensibly recalled from forced labor.
This paper provides a brief synthesis of research conducted on gender in irrigation, and the tools and frameworks used in the past to promote improvement for women in on-farm agricultural water management. It then presents results from the pilot of the Gender in Irrigation Learning and Improvement Tool (GILIT) in locations in Malawi and Uzbekistan in 2015. Through the results of the tool, the paper looks at benefit sharing between men and women farmers: (i) access to irrigation scheme resources (including information, for example, in the design phase; land, water and other inputs); (ii) participation in scheme management; and (iii) access to scheme benefits, including access to market information, packaging and payments. The indicators for the tool were modelled after principles reflected in existing gender policies and strategies, and intended to improve performance at field level in line with national and regional goals. The paper concludes with informal and formal constraints to gender-equitable outcomes from irrigation investments identified during the pilot, and suggests how the tool can be used by various development actors to improve the benefits for women from investments in agricultural water management.
Human Rights Watch;
Despite recent reforms, systematic forced labor was still rampant in 2017 in Uzbekistan's cotton sector, new research shows. A report by the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights (UGF), a German-based nongovernmental organization, found evidence of a state-sponsored system of forced labor in all regions they monitored during the 2017 harvest. Local officials, under pressure of a quota production system, continued to force people to pick cotton with little accountability. This research is consistent with findings in a 2016 joint report by UGF and Human Rights Watch documenting labor rights violations that underpin Uzbekistan's cotton industry, including in areas with World Bank funded cotton sector projects. The new report confirms that forced labor continued in World Bank project areas, contrary to the bank's loan agreements. While this should be grounds for project suspension, the bank remains heavily invested in projects that benefit Uzbekistan's cotton sector.
International Labor Rights Forum;
For the last 10 years, the World Bank has justified its position on human rights by citing the Political Prohibition Provisions of its Articles of Agreement. It has regularly claimed that the Provisions prevent it from considering human rights in its loan decisions let alone mainstream human rights in its operations. The consequences of this approach in Uzbekistan — gross human rights abuses, endemic corruption, and intractable poverty — have been well-documented by civil society, the UN, and the ILO.
While the Provisions may appear to preclude any consideration of non-economic factors, the Bank has acknowledged that there are some exceptional situations in which its international legal obligations trump the obligations imposed on it by the Articles. The peremptory force of jus cogens vis-à-vis incompatible loan agreements constitutes one such situation. As established above, the prohibition against State mobilization and use of forced labor for economic development, as defined in Article 1(b) of Convention No. 105, has attained the status of a jus cogens norm and by its operation, all of the Bank's project agreements that support any aspect of cotton production in Uzbekistan must be declared void and terminated immediately. The Bank's jus cogens obligations also require it to stop providing loans which are used in any way for Uzbek cotton production until the violation of Article 1(b) of Convention No. 105 ceases to exist. Currently, there are no mitigation measures sufficient to ensure a violation of this jus cogens norm does not occur in Uzbekistan.
The international legal obligation of the World Bank, its member States, and its officers to adhere to jus cogens requirements supersedes any policy or business considerations that may have guided their engagement with the Government of Uzbekistan. The violation of Article 1(b) of Convention No. 105, as with violations of all jus cogens norms, entails potential civil or criminal liability in national and international jurisdictions. The Bank's role as a lender, given the unique circumstances of its engagement with Uzbekistan, may not absolve it from legal accountability for its involvement in the Government's systematic perpetration of forced labor. The member States on the Bank's Board of Directors and their individual representatives should also take note of the legal liabilities they could face.
To avoid liability, the World Bank, its member States, and its officers should heed their legal obligations and institute the policy, procedural, and practical reforms needed to ensure they no longer contribute to jus cogens violations in Uzbekistan and other countries. A more forward-thinking and holistic approach to human rights will also be needed to fix the reputational damage and mission failure exemplified by the Bank's engagement with the Government of Uzbekistan.
Many of the legal and policy implications shared in this report are also applicable to the other IFIs operating in Uzbekistan and other similarly repressive countries where gross human rights violations occur on a regular basis. These lenders should be aware of the legal risks they face by engaging with repressive governments without a comprehensive human rights policy that is implemented at all levels of their operations.
Corporations, another key actor responsible for sustaining the forced labor system in Uzbekistan, should also carefully assess their legal risks when deciding whether to operate in or source their products from countries known to violate fundamental human rights norms. While the law on financial complicity is as yet unsettled, corporations and IFIs alike would be wise to take all necessary precautions to avoid potential liability, especially when the risk of harm is substantial or real. In these circumstances, it may be best for the company or IFI to refrain from entering into a financial agreement that could assist the party involved in the human rights abuse.
Walk Free Foundation;
The Global Slavery Index ('the Index') provides an estimate of the number of people in modern slavery, the factors that make individuals vulnerable to this crime, and an assessment of government action across 167 countries.
The Global Slavery Index is based on state of the art research methodology that has been developed with the assistance of an independent Expert Working Group, comprised of world leading experts. The methodology has also been subjected to independent external review. This estimate is based on data from nationally representative, random sample surveys conducted in 25 countries. All surveys were conducted face-to-face in key local languages using a standardised instrument. Collectively, these surveys represent 44 percent of the global population. The results of these surveys have been extrapolated to countries with an equivalent risk profile.
The 2016 estimate is an increase on the estimate provided in the previous edition of the Index. As efforts to measure this hidden crime are still relatively new, we are not asserting that modern slavery has increased in the intervening period. Indeed, results from our surveys reveal some national estimates have increased while others have decreased. We believe that the overall larger number reflects a significant increase in the quality and quantity of research on this issue. While the methodology will continually improve, even at this early stage, survey data have greatly improvedthe accuracy of our measures.
Open Society Foundations;
In February 2016, the Amsterdam-based telecoms company Vimpelcom paid almost US$800 million in fines to settle charges of paying bribes to operate in Uzbekistan. The case came on top of several other investigations, and highlights the elaborate system of corruption and bribery that undermines business, governance, and the economy in this Central Asian state.
Tackling Corruption in Uzbekistan provides a detailed account of these problems, and chronicles how they became endemic in the country's political and economic life. It is an environment of informal decision making, opaque regulations, and a lack of independent oversight. These conditions contribute to growing inequality, and fuel power struggles among Uzbekistan's economic and political leaders. All of this poses a grave threat to the country's long-term stability.
The Uzbek government's anticorruption campaigns do little to address systemic problems. Instead, they are used by officials to settle scores and consolidate power through selective prosecutions. The government also uses harassment, persecution, and imprisonment to stifle independent journalists and civil society activists who monitor and report on corruption. Up to now, international technical assistance programs have had limited impact. Tackling Corruption in Uzbekistan provides analysis and recommendations to help the international community strengthen its efforts to investigate allegations of money laundering and corporate malpractice, and support those who challenge corruption both inside and outside the country.
Open Society Foundations;
Over the past several years, the Uzbekistan government has announced steps to end its use of child labor during the country's annual cotton harvest. But that does not mean Uzbekistan has stopped forcing its citizens to harvest cotton. It has shifted the burden of compulsory labor onto adults.
Yet, the international community largely has accepted Tashkent's promises of reform and statements of progress. Even its proposed reforms are mostly cosmetic. And Tashkent's unwillingness to end forced labor altogether is directly correlated with the level of pressure placed on it by the international community.
A review of U.S. government reports and cables made public through WikiLeaks clearly demonstrates how one key international actor—the United States—repeatedly has rushed to embrace promises of progress that later proved ephemeral. As this policy brief notes, a clear and consistent voice from the United States and international community is necessary to force changes to Uzbekistan's forced labor program.
Open Society Foundations;
Every year, the government in Uzbekistan forces up to a million of its own citizens to pick cotton without pay. Uzbekistan's cotton industry is crippling the economy, degrading the environment, and creating tensions between Uzbekistan and its neighbors. Given these problems, why does the government of Uzbekistan persist with this abusive and antiquated system? In the context of the hyper-authoritarian system of government in Uzbekistan there are two answers: because the government can and because it profits handsomely from doing so.
In order to challenge forced labor in Uzbekistan, advocates and policymakers need a deeper understanding of how the cotton industry works. A new report produced by the Open Society Foundations contributes to this understanding and offers tools and analysis that can help in the planning and financing of major reforms. Uzbekistan's Cotton Sector: Financial Flows and Distribution of Resources provides new insights into how a small circle surrounding President Islam Karimov's government realizes huge profits by ignoring human rights and keeping a centralized business alive.
The paper uses data and analysis about the costs of the cotton production system to produce recommendations for allowing farmers and markets to work. This includes strategies for de-monopolizing agricultural service industries such as seed and fertilizer suppliers and cotton gins.
This is the the 18th edition of Freedom House's comprehensive report on post-communist democratic governance -- highlights recent setbacks to democracy across Eurasia and the Balkans, as well as in Central Europe. Russia served as the model and inspiration for policies that have led to an uninterrupted retreat from free institutions throughout Eurasia and in 2013 brought a new and alarming level of repression. In Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and several other countries, civil society responded with remarkable resistance to repressive governance. The year also featured improved elections and peaceful transfers of power in Kosovo, Albania, and Georgia.
Open Society Foundations;
Forced Sterilization of Women in Uzbekistan examines an alleged government sterilization program and reveals a pattern of ongoing, systematic forced sterilizations that have affected tens of thousands of women and have intensified in recent years.
The report's testimonial evidence indicates that for the past 13 years the Uzbek government has carried out a sterilization program that is a centrally regulated policy with the apparent aim of controlling population growth.
The report's main conclusions include:
In Uzbekistan, all women of reproductive age who have delivered two or more children are potential targets of the program.
Medical professionals are under pressure to perform the sterilizations as the authoritarian government holds doctors and nurses responsible for fulfilling quotas set by health administrators.
While the international community cannot be held responsible for the forced sterilization program, its close cooperation with officials in the sphere of reproductive health and its reluctance to challenge the government's denials about forced sterilization have implicitly allowed the government to continue the practice.