World Bank finds no systematic child labour in Uzbekistan

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The World Bank has disclosed that the findings of the Third Party Monitoring conducted by the International Labor Organisation (ILO) with particular focus on areas where specific projects supported by the Bank has not found conclusive information that beneficiaries of World Bank-supported projects used child or forced labor during the 2015 cotton harvest, the Bank said in a press release.

Similar to the 2013 harvest, no systematic use of child labor has been in 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 Uzbek authorities.

“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,”Jha added. “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. The World Bank, together with other development partners, is engaged in a constructive dialogue with the authorities to assist them in developing and implementing a strategy aimed at transforming the agriculture sector into an important source of growth, incomes for farmers, and quality jobs. This is a long-term agenda that requires actions on many fronts, including: diversification of agriculture production away from cotton towards more value-added products, such as dairy, fruits and vegetables; liberalization of the cotton industry, including through privatization; mechanization of cotton harvesting where appropriate; and introduction of market-based labor mobilization for seasonal cotton pickers, the World Bank release said. (SH)

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