To seek an end to the mass forced labor regime enacted by the Uzbek Government during the annual cotton harvest. Freedom United sought this in two ways: 1) by urging major South Korean company Daewoo to stop business with the Uzbek Government and; 2) by encouraging the World Bank to suspend loans to the Uzbek Government.
In 2014, we launched a campaign against Daewoo, one of the largest processors of Uzbek cotton, calling on it to stop its operations in the country until the International Labour Organization verifies the Uzbek Government has put a stop to its forced labour regime. 107,342 Freedom United supporters took action on the campaign, and we delivered our petition directly to Daewoo in South Korea.
In 2015, alongside the International Labor Rights Forum, we ran a public initiative to pressure the World Bank to suspend its loans to the Uzbek Government. Petitions were launched and a social media blitz began. On Human Rights Day 2015, a public protest was held at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington DC that included the projection of a 5-minute video onto the exterior of the World Bank Headquarters. The video displayed images of forced labor in Uzbekistan, key facts, our successful petition numbers, and logos of all the organizations partnering with us on this initiative. Following several high-profile campaign events, the posting of a Huffington Post blog, and hundreds of social media shares, a petition of 136,109 signatures was delivered to the World Bank
Awareness of the Uzbek forced labor regime was significantly raised among the public adding to pressure that eventually, in the cotton harvest of fall 2021, led to confirmation that the system of state-imposted forced labor had ended. While the World Bank publicly condemned the use of forced labor in Uzbekistan, it did not commit to suspending loans to Uzbekistan. You can read more about our effort to end the system as members of the Cotton Campaign, and our announcement of the lifting of the ban on Uzbek cotton in March 2022 here. Unfortunately, Daewoo did not put an end to its business in Uzbekistan.