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EJF invited by UK Government to discuss Uzbek cotton
Feb 23, 2011

EJF invited by UK Government to discuss Uzbek cotton

By EJF Staff

EJF were invited by the Rt Hon David Lidington MP, Minister of State for Europe and Nato, to discuss the human rights abuses and environmental degradation caused by Uzbekistan’s state-controlled cotton industry. 

EJF, together with Alistair Carmichael MP who has been instrumental in raising awareness and concern relating to Uzbek cotton, were invited by the Rt Hon David Lidington MP, Minister of State for Europe and Nato, to discuss the human rights abuses and environmental degradation caused by Uzbekistan’s state-controlled cotton industry. Rupert Joy, the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, was also at the meeting to hear EJF’s views.

The meeting was a chance for EJF to present the latest developments in our Pick Your Cotton Carefully" campaign, demonstrating that there is ongoing state-sponsored forced child labour in Uzbek cotton production. During the 2010 harvest, children as young as 10 were once more forced to work in the fields despite Uzbekistan having signed international labour conventions aimed at ending child labour.

In addition to discussing child labour, EJF raised the problem of unsustainable water use in cotton production, which not only has led to the demise of the Aral Sea, but is also a potential source of conflict in Central Asia. The wasteful irrigation of cotton has been a major cause of the Aral losing 85% of its volume, destroying rural livelihoods and habitats.

Welcoming the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s commitment to encourage the Uzbek Government to reform the cotton sector, EJF also called on the UK Government to take a leading role in Europe by calling for the removal of favourable import tariffs for Uzbek cotton entering the EU.

EJF has been calling on the UK Government as well as the European Parliament to follow the lead of consumers and major retailers in taking action on Uzbek cotton, ensuring that positive voluntary initiatives are matched by strong, coherent policies in support of human rights and sustainable development in Uzbekistan.

"Uzbekistan is one of the largest exporters of cotton in the world and reports of human rights abuses and environmental damage are clearly of significant concern. It is wrong that children should be forced out of school and into the fields and we need to do what we can to encourage the Uzbek government to fulfil the commitments they have made in this area. What the important work of the EJF has illustrated clearly is that cheap cotton can come at a high price." Alistair Carmichael MP 

What can I do?

Political momentum behind EJF’s Pick Your Cotton Carefully campaign continues to gather strength. The meeting comes after a successful event in Parliament in November and Early Day Motion 1284 calling on the Government to review public procurement policies such that Uzbek cotton does not enter the supply chain for bank notes, military or emergency services uniforms and the NHS. Keep Uzbek cotton out of hospital bed sheets, bank notes and military uniforms: send a letter now asking your MP to sign EDM 1284.