Hospital staff in Uzbek cotton fields in World Bank project area.
The World Bank is an institution that provides loans for developing countries. Right now it is providing almost $500 million to Uzbek agriculture projects. Yet Uzbekistan’s cotton industry has historically relied upon state-sanctioned forced labor.
Whilst we have seen progress in Uzbekistan following the Uzbek Prime Minister’s announcement in September 2017 that the mobilization of students, teachers and healthcare workers would be halted “forever”, an estimated 336,000 people were forced to pick cotton during that harvest according to the UN’s International Labour Organization. So why has the World Bank not taken action?
The 2018 harvest is now finished and as we wait for the overall picture to emerge, cases of exploitation have come to our attention. Civil society monitors have reported teachers and healthcare professionals coerced into collecting cotton during the harvest. In December 2018, the tragic death of 24-year-old Sohibjon Mutalibov brought to light that his employer, Uzbek-Spanish company Ammofos-Maxam, forcibly sent their workers to the fields in last year’s harvest.
Yet despite two years of documented proof showing forced labor continues on World Bank project sites, particularly in the poor and vulnerable region of Karakalpakstan, the World Bank has not suspended its loans.
Send a message to the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim now that the Bank must cease these loans to support state-administered forced labor in Uzbekistan!
Watch the video to learn more about Sohibjon’s death: