The US Department of Labour has awarded a 2 million dollars grant to help improve working conditions and prevent forced and child labour in the cotton industry of Uzbekistan. The funding, which is administered by the Bureau of International Labour Affairs (ILAB), will support a project by the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) to help and give voice to cotton businesses meeting international labour standards.
The announcement comes days after Uzbek cotton was taken off from ILAB’s list of goods believed to be made with forced and child labour. The Cotton Campaign collective has ended its call for a global boycott after a report found no evidence of government, imposed forced labour in cotton harvesting.
Uzbekistan is the sixth biggest producer of cotton in the world, and its annual harvest employs around two million cotton workers, which is the largest seasonal labour mobilisation in the world.
Thea Lee, deputy undersecretary for international affairs, said that the commitment of Uzbekistan to labour standards compliance has renewed international interest in investing and sourcing cotton grown in the country. Uzbekistan has pledged to eliminate forced labour from the cotton harvest as part of its broad reforms announced in 2017.