What Does Winning Look Like: Investing in Labor Rights Campaigns to Foster Change in Repressive Systems

April 05, 2023
03:30 pm - 08:00 pm

About the Event

In March 2022, the Cotton Campaign, a global coalition against forced labor, announced that it was ending its call for a global boycott of Uzbek cotton. The Coalition made this decision following the 2021 harvest: Uzbek Forum for Human Rights, a frontline partner of the Cotton Campaign that has monitored the annual cotton harvest since 2010, found no state-imposed forced labor for the first time in years. This landmark achievement marked the elimination of state-imposed forced labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton harvest, which had affected millions of children and adults. Despite these gains, civic space and fundamental labor rights in Uzbekistan remain arbitrarily restricted and farmers face exploitation, jeopardizing reforms in the cotton sector.

Turkmenistan remains one of the most closed and repressive countries in the world. Every year during the harvest, the government continues to force tens of thousands of public sector workers to pick cotton in hazardous and unsanitary conditions and extorts money from public employees to pay harvest expenses. To this day, the government continues to deny the forced labor problem and has taken harsh actions against those who report on abuses.

The National Endowment for Democracy and Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum hosted an in-person, two-panel discussion and reception to reflect on one year since the end of state-imposed forced labor in Uzbek cotton—including the implications for global cotton supply chains, next steps in Uzbekistan, and making labor rights gains in Turkmenistan and the Uyghur region. The panels placed the fight for workers’ rights in Central Asia in the broader context of global supply chains and supply chain governance. This has been given new prominence and urgency by systematic forced labor as part of genocide and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the government of China against the Uyghur and other Turkic and/or Muslim-majority peoples.

About the Speakers

Opening Remarks
Kirsten D. Madison
Vice President of Government Relations, National Endowment for Democracy

Shawna Bader-Blau
Executive Director, Solidarity Center

JJ Rosenbaum
Executive Director, GLJ-ILRF

Ruslan Myatiev
Founder and Editor, Turkmen.News

Umida Niyazova
Director, Uzbek Forum for Human Rights

Gulnoz Mamarasulova
Uzbek Forum for Human Rights

Allison Gill
Forced Labor Program Director, GLJ-ILRF

Bennett Freeman
Cotton Campaign co-founder and former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

Patricia Jurewicz
Cotton Campaign co-founder and founder and CEO, Responsible Sourcing Network

Jewher Ilham
Forced Labor Project Coordinator, Worker Rights Consortium

Julie Hughes
President, US Fashion Industry Association

Spaska Gatzinska as moderator
Deputy Director, Eurasia, National Endowment for Democracy

Raluca Dumitrescu as moderator
Cotton Campaign Coordinator, GLJ-ILRF

Closing Remarks
Kelly M. Fay Rodríguez
Special Representative for International Labor Affairs, U.S. Department of State

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Header image adapted from image courtesy of NED grantee Uzbek Forum for Human Rights.