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Rating Uzbekistan’s Progress In Halting Forced Labor

Picking cotton in a field outside Bukhara in August 2018

For the first Majlis podcast of 2019, we decided to take a look at Uzbekistan’s attempts at domestic reform, specifically the pledge to end forced labor in the country's cotton fields, a decades-old practice.

In recent years, as many as 1 million people were conscripted into Uzbekistan’s cotton fields at harvest time. Wages were miserly and hours were long.

Children had been among those sent into the fields, but international criticism and boycotts of Uzbekistan’s cotton by international clothing makers eventually forced Uzbek authorities to halt child labor at cotton harvest time.

Children were replaced with adults, often people from the health-care and education sectors.

There were quotas for cotton to be picked, and there were quotas for the number of workers needed in the fields. Provincial and local officials are still tasked with meeting these targets.

On this week's Majlis, RFE/RL's media-relations manager, Muhammad Tahir, moderates a discussion that looks at how much progress Uzbek authorities made in 2018 in fulfilling the promise of President Shavkat Mirziyoev to eradicate forced labor from the cotton fields.

Joining the talk from Tashkent was Jonas Astrup, chief technical adviser in Uzbekistan for the International Labor Organization.

From Germany, Umida Niyazova, director of the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights (which is also part of the international coalition called the Cotton Campaign), took part.

From RFE/RL headquarters in Prague, Laziz Omilov of RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, known locally as Ozodlik, who runs the special project Pahtagram for Ozodlik, also participated.

And I had a couple of comments to throw in also.

Majlis Podcast: Rating Uzbekistan’s Progress In Halting Forced Labor
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About Majlis

Each week, hosts Bruce Pannier and Muhammad Tahir welcome a panel of expert guests to discuss significant political developments and pressing social issues affecting the nations of Central Asia.

Click here to check out the latest Majlis podcast, or visit ITunes.