February 1, 2024

(Berlin) – Today, Uzbek Forum for Human Rights published its report on the 2023 cotton harvest in Uzbekistan. Monitoring findings show that although there was no widespread, systematic, government-imposed forced labor during the 2023 harvest, an acute shortage of pickers in several districts led to coercion by officials to recruit sufficient numbers of pickers to fulfill production targets.

Low rates of pay for pickers, combined with better earning potential in alternative rural jobs, as well as the return of thousands of migrant workers from Uzbekistan to Russia and elsewhere following the end of the pandemic, contributed to the shortage of voluntary cotton pickers.

Despite privatization of Uzbekistan’s cotton sector, the system of state control over the cotton harvest has remained unchanged. Local authorities and officials are responsible for overseeing the timely harvest of cotton and ensuring fulfillment of production targets for each district throughout the country. Leaked recordings of meetings held by Presidential Advisor Shukhrat Ganiev, responsible for the oversight of the harvest, revealed enormous levels of pressure on officials to meet production targets under menace of penalty and even criminal proceedings.

These findings indicate a real risk that forced labor could again become widespread without civil and political change that prevents coercion and enables freedom of association and independent monitoring to ensure the reforms to eliminate forced labor do not backslide.


         Read the full report

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