15 April 2021: amfori has signed a contract with GIZ (Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) - the German Government Development Agency - to support a programme to advance sustainability along the cotton supply chain in Uzbekistan through a capacity building project.
The objective of the GIZ programme is to increase the income of cotton farmers and textile workers, to protect natural resources and to create new and better employment perspectives within relevant cotton economies.
The amfori-implemented project will support the overall programme by providing capacity building and learning opportunities. The aim of the capacity building programme is to implement responsible practices and to introduce international social audits and certifications free of child and forced labour in Uzbekistan. This development follows extensive engagement from amfori with the ILO, GIZ, civil society actors on the evolution and reforms in the cotton industry regarding forced labour in Uzbekistan.
According to the ILO’s latest report on the Uzbekistan (1),
“Uzbekistan continued to demonstrate major progress in the eradication of child labour and forced labour in the 2020 cotton harvest. As in previous years, there were only isolated cases of minors below the legal working age picking cotton [...] The ILO continues to find that systematic child labour is no longer used during the cotton harvest in Uzbekistan. [...] Systematic forced labour did not occur during the 2020 cotton harvest. Reforms are implemented step-by-step and continue to have a significant positive impact.”
The ILO and the wider donor community are of the firm view that capacity building at factory level and greater engagement with international businesses are key to sustaining this progress. This perspective also aligns with amfori’s approach of supporting continuous improvement.
Earlier this month the EU accepted Uzbekistan as the 9th beneficiary country of the special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance (GSP+). According to the EU “the acceptance of Uzbekistan as a beneficiary of GSP+ reflects the recognition of reforms undertaken by the government, in particular to improve the business climate, the judicial system, security services, labour conditions, and administrative accountability and efficiency.” (2)
These measures, coupled with increasing investment in the country, as well as the country’s relative proximity to the European market, enhance Uzbekistan’s attractiveness as a country to do business.
The contract awarded to amfori followed a competitive tender process organized by GIZ. The resulting project will provide training on amongst others amfori BSCI, Management Systems, Child Labour, Forced labour and Audit reports & Remediation plans. The target audience includes factory management and workers, union representatives and political decision makers.
About Uzbekistan and the Cotton Industry
Uzbekistan is the seventh-largest cotton producer in the world: More than 3 million tons of raw cotton is cultivated on 1.2 million hectares. The sector employs 30% of the entire working population and contributes approx. 18% to gross domestic product (GDP). In the last five years, there has been a change in the country on agricultural policy towards supporting openness, market mechanisms and sustainable production. Significantly, there have also been notable reductions in forced and child labour.
(1) International Labour Organisation, 2020: 2020 third-party monitoring of child labour and forced labour during the cotton harvest in Uzbekistan, pg 6
(2) European Commission, 2021. Uzbekistan joins EU’s GSP+ arrangement