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5th International Exhibition for Textile and Fashion Industries "UzTextileExpo Autumn 2022"
12 - 14 October 2022 Tashkent, Uzbekistan

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The newest history of Uzbekistan and the tremendous successes we have achieved give every reason to say with confidence that our people, possessing courage and strength, unbending will and determination, are able to overcome any difficulties and trials on their way. Our country has one goal - to build a developing, free and prosperous democratic state.

Today, in the foreign policy strategy of Uzbekistan, pursued by the President of the country, a priority place is given to the development of mutually beneficial relations and cooperation with international organizations. As a result of systematic work in this direction, close cooperation with authoritative international organizations is developing in Uzbekistan. In particular, thanks to the strong political will of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the country today has shown to the whole world its commitment to its international obligations in the world of work and is consistently developing constructive cooperation with the International Labor Organization, World Bank, EBRD, IFC, etc.

A negative factor in the expansion of international trade cooperation was the boycott of Uzbek cotton that began in 2006 by more than 300 global brands and retailers who signed a pledge not to buy Uzbek cotton due to the use of child labor and forced labor in the cotton harvest. One of the initiators of this decision was also the International Coalition "Cotton Campaign". The adoption of such a statement by international brands has become a kind of brake on the accelerated development of the Uzbek textile industry.

In this situation, the government of Uzbekistan has demonstrated the political will to continue to work towards the complete elimination of child and forced labor. Perhaps, this was best expressed in the speech of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the meeting of the UN General Assembly (September 2017), where he reaffirmed his commitment to solving the problem of forced labor in Uzbekistan.

In this regard, the changes taking place in our country attract the attention of the entire world community. Within the framework of the adopted Development Strategy of Uzbekistan, large-scale transformations and reforms have been launched in all spheres of life. Confirmation was the adopted course of Uzbekistan to expand opportunities for decent work and adherence to labor standards remains unchanged. In this regard, the International Labor Organization (ILO) rendered invaluable assistance.

Already in 2013, the ILO began monitoring the cotton harvest on the use of child labor. In 2015, under an agreement with the World Bank, this work was expanded to cover both forced and child labor. In 2020, third-party ILO monitoring was conducted by independent civil society activists in Uzbekistan using ILO methodology and training. The systematic and systematic use of child and forced labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry has ended, according to the results of a new monitoring report on the 2020 cotton harvest (ILO).

The report noted that within the framework of the Country Program, measures were successfully implemented to improve labor legislation and raise public awareness of labor rights. Significant results have been achieved in the eradication of forced labor; there have been no cases of systematic involvement of citizens in forced labor. The country has made significant progress in respecting fundamental labor rights in the cotton fields. Systematic child labor has been eradicated and is no longer a serious concern. ILO monitoring has focused on the pandemic. Many Uzbek migrant workers have returned to Uzbekistan as a result of the pandemic, making more people available to pick cotton.

As part of interaction with the international coalition "Cotton Campaign", an active effective dialogue began in 2019, when the coalition made proposals for Uzbekistan to present a set of practical measures to improve legislation in terms of ending forced labor and ensuring the sustainability of reforms in agriculture. and empowering civil society. For the first time in 2020. a visit to Uzbekistan of a delegation of the international coalition "Cotton Campaign", consisting of representatives of non-governmental human rights organizations "Responsible Buyers Network", Human Rights Watch, "Solidarity Center", "Uzbek-German Forum" and "Monitoring Mission on Labor Rights in Central Asia. Following the visit, the Cotton Campaign made a proposal to establish a partnership and use a “dialogue platform” to establish cooperation with international brands and attract them on the basis of “sustainable and responsible business”.

And already, in a recent statement by the Cotton Campaign (on the forum) regarding measures to combat forced labor in Uzbekistan, it was also recognized that for the first time in ten years of monitoring forced labor in the cotton harvest in Uzbekistan, not a single case of forced labor has been documented. in some cotton growing regions, and it is confirmed that the positive trends in the 2020 harvest and significant progress are the result of years of efforts by the Uzbek government and widespread reforms.

Today, effective measures are being taken in the republic to eradicate forced labor. The government of Uzbekistan has taken a number of measures to prevent forced labor in the cotton harvest, which are in line with the recommendations of the International Labor Organization, the World Bank, the European Union, the US Department of State, the International Cotton Campaign, the international public organization Human Rights Watch, the ambassadors of the United States, Germany and Switzerland in Uzbekistan and etc. In Uzbekistan, together with international organizations, more than 50 projects have been implemented aimed at combating human trafficking and forced labor.

In our country, activities are being actively carried out aimed at strengthening foreign economic relations with many countries of the world.

For example, in order to further progress in eliminating forced labor in the cotton harvest in Uzbekistan, the US Department of Labor, the US Department of State and the US Department of Homeland Security monitored the situation in the cotton sector in Uzbekistan. As a result, it was decided to exclude Uzbek cotton from the order of the US Department of Labor, which prohibits federal agencies from buying goods, items, raw materials if forced labor was used in their extraction, production and manufacture. The American department, commenting on the exclusion of Uzbekistan from the blacklist, pointed to the isolated incidence of forced and child labor, an increase in the effectiveness of investigations and prosecution of offenders. The US Department of Labor praised the efforts of the Uzbek authorities to eradicate forced labor.

In 2016, the European Parliament ratified the so-called "textile protocol" - an agreement on partnership and cooperation between the EU and Uzbekistan and on bilateral trade in the textile industry, and the timely provision of domestic enterprises with social responsibility standards played an important role in the decision of the European Commission to grant Uzbekistan, in the current year, the status of the beneficiary of GSP +. This decision was made on the basis of the reports of the monitoring groups of the European Commission on the implementation by Uzbekistan of the provisions of 27 international conventions in the field of human rights protection, observance of labor standards, environmental protection and good governance.

The implementation of social projects, together with international experts, has made it possible to achieve certain positive results in the field of compliance with international labor standards and norms in Uzbekistan. A project implemented by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has introduced norms that promote cotton sector reforms in selected regions of Uzbekistan and the introduction of the Socially Responsible and Sustainable Cotton System (SCSS), based on the principles of the Best Cotton Standards System (BCI).

Today, agreements have been reached on the implementation of the project of the International Labor Organization and the International Finance Corporation "Better Work" at the enterprises of the textile and garment and knitwear industries of Uzbekistan, in order to improve labor standards and increase competitiveness in global supply chains. The implementation of this project will be an effective systematic step to accelerate the process of abolishing the "cotton boycott".

Of course, the range of issues of cooperation with the ILO has significantly expanded and went beyond the eradication of child and forced labor. Today, the ILO’s partnership activities are universally aimed at strengthening tripartite social dialogue and the priority of international labor standards, creating decent working conditions, supporting the viability of enterprises, and ensuring a decent standard of living through employment and social protection of the population.

Today Uzbekistan is replacing the old state production system with a market model and with the necessary guarantees, including fair recruitment practices and adequate wages. The government’s strategy is to move Uzbekistan up the value chain and position the country as an exporter of textiles and clothing instead of raw cotton. This can create millions of high-paying jobs and generate significant export profits.

Uzbekistan has demonstrated that it deserves the full support of the international community, and the international community is determined to continue to work closely with our government, employers, trade unions and civil society to empower women and men in Uzbekistan to obtain decent and productive work conditions of freedom, equality, security and human dignity.

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