The decision by the World Bank’s internal watchdog not to investigate the link between the bank’s loans and Uzbek government-organised forced labour is alarming, said the Cotton Campaign. The campaign group supports the message from independent Uzbek groups that have represented forced labour victims to the bank’s president criticising the decision.
“The Bank decision is shocking,” said Umida Niyazova, director of the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights. “To millions of victims of forced labour in Uzbekistan, the bank has said that despite recognising the relationship between their plight and its loans, it is not worth investigating. Disturbingly, the bank’s decision is also a message to the Uzbek government that it can continue its forced labour system.”
In 2014, the Uzbek government, as it has in previous years, forced farmers to produce cotton and required millions of its citizens to pick the crop, according to the Cotton Campaign. The group said Tashkent continues to deny it has a forced labour problem and represses citizens’ attempts to report such human rights violations.
The World Bank Inspection Panel decided that the World Bank management and the Uzbek government are doing enough to address the problem since the government promised to respect labour standards in its loan agreements. The Bank has committed to suspend any loans if it finds child or forced labour in project areas.
To avoid having to pull its loans, the Bank needs to help persuade the Uzbek authorities to address the root causes of forced labour, the Cotton Campaign said.
For the full story, see the March 2015 edition of Textiles Eastern Europe. Not a subscriber? Sign up HERE