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June 17, 2009
Investors Call on ILO to Ensure End of Child Labor in Uzbekistan
    by Robert Kropp

Letter from investors to the ILO cites documentation that rights abuses continue in Uzbek cotton harvest, and asks the organization to monitor fall 2009 harvest.


Despite having signed two International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions in spring 2008, by which it claimed to have put an end to the practice of forced child labor during its cotton harvest, the government of Uzbekistan continued the practice in its fall 2008 harvest. A report issued by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) documented findings by its investigators to this effect.

With Uzbekistan's fall 2009 cotton harvest approaching, a group of over 60 investors have sent a letter to Director General Juan Somavia of the ILO, apprising him of their engagement as shareowners in many private sector purchasers and manufacturers of cotton and cotton-based merchandise with the government of Uzbekistan on the issue of forced child labor.

In the letter, the investors "recognize that human rights violations, such as state-sponsored child labor, impose unacceptable costs to individuals and society. They also pose legal, operational and reputational risks to the value of the involved corporations we hold in our portfolios." Letters on the issue were sent by the investors to 130 apparel and home furnishing companies during the past year, and a number of companies have directed their suppliers not to use cotton from Uzbekistan.

Because of evidence indicating the continued use of forced child labor in Uzbekistan, the investors urged the government of Uzbekistan "to invite the ILO to deploy an initial expert observer and assessment mission immediately as a prelude to long-term engagement by the ILO, including monitoring on a multi-year basis." The investors asked that the ILO be prepared to accept such an invitation, "provided that it is coupled with such a public acknowledgment of the problem and a commitment to work with the ILO on its terms."

Signatories of the letter include the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), the As You Sow Foundation, Boston Common Asset Management, Calvert Investments, and the Center for Reflection, Education and Action (CREA).

 

 
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