Unlocking Private Sector and Civil Society Cooperation: Improving Labor Conditions in the Cotton Fields in Uzbekistan

06 Dec 2023
Uzbekistan Event

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan – CAO hosted an event in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in September 2023, which brought together civil society, private sector, and government participants for a roundtable discussion entitled "Unlocking Private Sector and Civil Society Cooperation: Improving Labor Conditions in the Cotton Fields."  The event, which took place on September 14, comprised two panels featuring human rights activists, Indorama and HamkorBank, which are clients of IFC, and PeaceNexus Foundation. IFC staff and CAO mediators also participated in the event. The participants shared their experiences and insights from a CAO dispute resolution process which has been addressing concerns about forced and child labor in the cotton supply chain in Uzbekistan since 2016.

The event featured opening remarks from Janine Ferretti, CAO’s Director General, Dilbar Mukhamedova, Advisor to the Chairman of the Uzbekistan Textile and Garment Industry Association, and Wiebke Schloemer, IFC Regional Director for Türkiye and Central Asia.

The first panel focused on the value of collaboration between civil society and the private sector to help parties out of conflict. Elena Urlaeva, a human rights defender and Avazbek Fazliev, Head of the Department for Coordination of Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance for Hamkorbank discussed insights from the CAO dispute resolution process and how it brought together civil society and private sector.  The agreement reached between the complainants and Hamkorbank through the CAO process enabled monitoring of the occurrence of forced labor among Hamkorbank employees and led to the complaint being resolvedZafar Khashimov, IFC’s Senior Country Officer for Uzbekistan also shared his reflections on the value of dispute resolution to IFC’s clients by helping them engage with complainants on difficult issues to find joint solutions. The discussion was moderated by Raya Kadyrova, a CAO mediator involved in the case.

The second panel focused on the role of third-party neutrals—or mediators—to unlock conversations. It featured Deepak Raina, General Director of Indorama Kokand Textile and Indorama Agro LLC, and Shukhrat Ganiev, human rights defender and lawyer involved in the CAO process. They shared how, through the neutral space provided by CAO, Indorama and civil society had come together to tackle systemic issues together.  As a result of the process, the company was able to adapt some of its business processes, including improvements to the company’s grievance mechanism. The panel also included Peter Cross, Director of PeaceNexus Foundation, which has provided support to the parties in the dispute resolution process, and Lukas Casey, manager of IFC’s Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Services business in Türkiye and Central Asia.  It was moderated by Tatsiana Bialiayeva, a CAO mediator involved in the case.

CAO’s dispute resolution process resulted in several agreements to address labor and supply chain concerns, which are in the monitoring phase, and CAO expects to conclude its involvement early in 2024.

In closing, Janine Ferretti, CAO’s Director General, recognized the commitment of all the parties involved in the CAO process and emphasized the value of dispute resolution in bringing civil society and companies together to discuss issues of concern and find solutions to complex problems. -

Learn more about the case here.

See more about the process in this video

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