NEW YORK – As the annual International Labor Organization (ILO) conference convenes in Geneva, leading faith-based and responsible investors in the U.S. and Europe are calling on the Government of Uzbekistan (GOU) to commit publicly to end forced child labor in its cotton fields. In addition to supporting the complaint filed by the International Organization of Employers on the issue, over sixty investors have sent a letter to ILO Director General Juan Somavia expressing their determination to help solve the problem and outlining steps that should be taken by the GOU in conjunction with the ILO.
Investors, along with human rights groups, trade associations and companies, have repeatedly requested that the GOU demonstrate its commitment to ending the forced mobilization of schoolchildren. It can do this by signaling its intent to work with the ILO to end the practice and to fully implement the relevant international labor conventions. Investors regret that the case regarding Uzbekistan’s chronic and longstanding violations of ILO Conventions Nos. 29 and 105, prohibiting forced labor, cannot be discussed at the ILO conference this year as the Government of Uzbekistan failed to register its participation on time.
With the fall 2009 cotton harvest fast approaching, investors have urged the GOU to invite the ILO to deploy an initial expert observer and assessment mission immediately as a prelude to long-term engagement by the ILO, including monitoring on a multi-year basis. Investors urge the ILO to be prepared to accept such an invitation from the GOU if it is forthcoming, provided that it is coupled with a public acknowledgment of the problem and a commitment to work with the ILO on the ILO’s terms-not only to implement the conventions but to curtail forced child labor in the cotton sector beginning immediately.
The letter states:
“As investors we will continue to build corporate support for the elimination of forced child labor in Uzbekistan, and we believe that our concerted actions thus far have helped to focus attention on both the problem and necessary solutions. We understand that this goal can be achieved only by serious and systematic commitments and actions on the part of the Government of Uzbekistan.”
Signatories of the letter include the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, As You Sow Foundation, Boston Common Asset Management, Calvert Investments and CREA.
For a copy of the letter to the ILO, please click here.