The agreement involves key stakeholders such as the US-based Centre for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), the Association of Cotton-Textile Clusters of Uzbekistan, the Solidarity Centre, and the Uzbekistan Ministry of Employment.

The memorandum of cooperation serves as the foundation for the newly launched CIPE-Solidarity Centre project, named “Enhancing Transparency and Accountability in the Cotton Industry of Uzbekistan,” and funded by the US Department of Labor.

Aimed at building on a 15-year effort that successfully eliminated forced labour in the country’s cotton supply chain, the project addresses the need for an effective reporting and grievance remedy system. The initiative also includes an education and incentive system to foster compliance at all stages of cotton and textile production.

Project goals outlined in the agreement’s accompanying action plan include:

  • Expanding stakeholder dialogue,
  • Promote transparent market, management standards and employee-oriented accountability systems,
  • Establishing trust and dialogue among cotton purchasers, producers, workers, and the Uzbekistan government,
  • Strengthen the capacity of cotton supply chain workers to identify and resolve labour rights violations,
  • Enhance compliance with international labour standards,
  • Foster industry sustainability while respecting and protecting labour rights.

Abdulwahab Alkebsi, CIPE managing director for programmes said: “We believe that our partnership will support the creation of effective management systems and serves to strengthen social protection, improve labour relations based on international standards and create decent and safe working conditions for workers.”

As per the agreement’s action plan, the programme will involve developing and testing grievance and remedy mechanisms led by workers, training workers, managers, and employers in the cotton industry on the fundamental international standards laid out by the International Labor Organization.

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Additionally, the programme will promote transparency and commitment to labour rights and good corporate governance through dialogues between stakeholders.

Speaking about the partnership, Shawna Bader-Blau, executive director of the Solidarity Centre said: “The Solidarity Centre looks forward to working with CIPE and the Cluster Association to support the development of a cotton industry in Uzbekistan that is recognised and rewarded in the global marketplace for upholding labour standards at the highest levels.”

This development is said to follow years of intense policy advocacy and campaigning by Uzbek and international civil society, combined with the Uzbek government’s commitment to ending state-imposed forced labour.

As a result, the Cotton Campaign officially ended its call for a global boycott of cotton from Uzbekistan in March 2022, lifting the Uzbek Cotton Pledge.

In June, The International Labour Organization (ILO) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) joined forces to introduce a new Better Work programme in Uzbekistan to improve working conditions and drive competitiveness in the country’s garment sector.