Suspend loans tainted by Uzbek forced labor -

Suspend loans tainted by Uzbek forced labor


Hospital staff in Uzbek cotton fields in World Bank project area.

Drugged, beaten and detained by police – this was the fate of Elena Urlaeva when she dared to document state-sponsored slavery in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan.1

In Uzbekistan, the government operates the world’s largest state-run system of forced labor, in which more than a million citizens each year are forced under threat of penalty to produce cotton for a state-run enterprise that benefits government elite.

Citizens like Elena, who report on the conditions of the harvest are routinely detained, harassed and physically assaulted, while journalists who attempt to document the truth are detained and deported.

What’s worse is that there are international actors helping Uzbekistan keep its dirty secret – including the World Bank and its private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation.

The World Bank Group is an international institution that provides loans for developing countries. Right now it is providing almost $500 million to Uzbek agriculture projects.2 The World Bank signed a contract agreeing to suspend certain loans if evidence of forced labor was uncovered.

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.

Reports from brave civil society monitors, who risk their personal safety, have found teachers and healthcare professionals coerced into weeding and preparing fields for the annual harvest.

Send a message to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim now that the Bank must cease these loans to support state-administered forced labor in Uzbekistan!



Campaign updates

September 2017: President Mirziyoyev addressed forced labor for the first time on the international stage at the UN General Assembly on September 19. He then met the World Bank President on the 20th, and discussed project funding. Then two days later on September 21, the Uzbek Prime Minister announced that the mobilization of students, teachers and healthcare workers would be halted “forever”. Whilst reports from the cotton fields show students were withdrawn, other workers are still being forcibly mobilised to bring in the harvest. Read our news story.

March 2016: Alongside the Cotton Campaign, ILRF and Anti-Slavery International, we held a rally outside the World Bank Headquarters in Washington D.C. and handed in 136,109 signatures to World Bank officials. Although the World Bank formally condemned the use of forced labor upon receipt of our petition, it has yet to suspend its loans to Uzbekistan. However, this campaign was a crucial first step in the process and has helped get us one step closer. Thank you for being part of the global anti-slavery movement and standing up for the rights of the Uzbek people.

December 2015: We joined our partner, the Cotton Campaign, in a protest outside the World Bank headquarters in Washington D.C. We projected a showcase of striking images and videos of Uzbek slavery onto the side of the Bank’s building.

Leave a Reply

33 Comments on "Suspend loans tainted by Uzbek forced labor"

newest oldest most voted
Anna Grice

What else to expect from the World Bank? It depends who is in charge here!

Dr Bernard Mooney

injustices are bad

Susan Gruber

Forced labor is inhumane , robs people of their dignity and keeps people oppressed without a voice. For this practice to stop it may be necessary to remove other nation’ s support of the practice. However, the problem may be too large for Uzbekistan to find a solution on its own to support their economy. Hopefully it will reach out for help, ideas, etc. to change and stay afloat.

Masud Hasan

The World bank and large corporations are in it together. Stop this evil practice.

enrique aguilar oivares
enrique aguilar oivares

Suspend loans tainted by Uzbek forced labor

Call on World Bank President Jim Yong Kim to suspend loans tainted with Uzbek forced labor

15,705 actions to 150k
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Dear World Bank President Jim Yong Kim,

Right now the cotton harvest in Uzbekistan is underway. I am saddened that once again the Uzbek government has coerced citizens into the fields, as documented by reports of forced labor during the Spring preparations, and that harvesters are being forcibly mobilized. But I am particularly disappointed that in spite of these reports, the World Bank has failed to suspend its loans benefiting the Uzbek cotton sector.

I am asking you to suspend the South Karakalpakstan Water Resources Management Improvement project and other agriculture investments in Uzbekistan that benefit the cotton sector. I ask this knowing that you have failed to take action despite receiving over 136,109 petition signatures asking just that in March 2016, and despite a credible report from the Uzbek German Forum for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch extensively documenting ongoing forced labor on the South Karakalpakstan project area and throughout the cotton sector. This report documents not only how the Uzbek government is violating national and international law through its labor practices, but how it is violating its agreement with the World Bank to enforce prohibitions on forced and child labor within the Bank’s project area.

The atmosphere of threats: expulsions from university; termination of employment; and loss of social benefits, makes it all the more important that independent monitors’ voices are taken seriously. The Uzbek government employs fear, intimidation and physical violence to prevent monitors from documenting forced labor, knowing their contractual commitment to ensure it is not present in World Bank project areas.

Please act now by suspending loans that benefit the Uzbek cotton sector to ensure the World Bank is no longer perpetuating modern slavery.

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Our partners in this campaign:

Cotton Campaign Logo

Cotton Campaign

The Cotton Campaign is a coalition of human rights organizations, trade unions, socially responsible investors and business associations united to end forced labor of children and adults in the cotton industry in Uzbekistan. Since 2007, the Cotton Campaign has advocated with governments, companies and investors to use their leverage to end this continuous and systematic human rights violation. Its advocacy has contributed to key steps towards securing fundamental labor rights for Uzbek and Turkmen citizens.

Rotarian Action Group Against Slavery

The Rotarian Action Group Against Slavery (RAGAS) is an independent action arm in the family of Rotary International. The Group’s aim are two-fold: to raise awareness of slavery and human trafficking and to take action to protect people against slavery and its consequences. RAGAS looks to provide information about, and promote ways for its members to engage and support anti-slavery and human trafficking projects, programmes and campaigns.

International Labor Rights Forum

International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) is a human rights organization that advocates for workers globally. It holds global corporations accountable for labor rights violations in their supply chains, advances policies and laws that protect workers, and strengthens workers’ ability to advocate for their rights. ILRF works with trade unions, faith-based organizations, and community groups to support workers and their families.

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