Enhancing Transparency and Accountability in Uzbekistan’s Cotton Industry

Project Duration
August 2022
August 2024
Funding and Year

This project seeks to improve labor conditions and prevent forced labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry by strengthening workers’ and employers’ ability to promote adherence to international labor standards.

The Problem

Uzbekistan is the world’s sixth largest producer of cotton, producing over 1 million tons annually.  The annual cotton harvest is the world’s largest seasonal labor mobilization, employing around 2 million workers, approximately half of whom derive their entire annual income from the harvest.  For decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, the government of Uzbekistan maintained a legacy of strong, centralized control of the sector. Farmers and seasonal workers, including children, were forced to plant and pick cotton.  

Since 2017, when a new government initiated broad reforms and pledged to eliminate forced labor, Uzbekistan’s cotton sector has undergone significant changes.  Today, the industry is transitioning to a privately managed “cluster” system of regional cotton and textile firms that buy cotton from local farmers or farm it directly.  Alongside these changes, policy reform and government efforts to promote public awareness of forced labor prohibitions, identify violations, and penalize offenders, have markedly reduced forced labor and child labor and renewed international interest in sourcing and investing in Uzbek cotton. 

These new opportunities for economic growth come with market demand for cotton produced under decent working conditions. To achieve this, employers will need to demonstrate their compliance with good labor practices and work to amplify the voices of workers.  Through the project, the Solidarity Center, and its co-implementer the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), will help strengthen worker voice and support local cotton businesses’ capacity to adopt standards and implement robust compliance systems. 


Our Strategy

This project will help strengthen worker voice and support local cotton businesses’ capacity to adopt standards and implement robust compliance systems.  The project will help empower workers to speak up for their rights; foster ethical business and labor practices in local cotton enterprises; and support industry compliance with international labor standards and good corporate governance. It will apply a participatory, grassroots approach and a mutually reinforcing strategy to organize and strengthen the roles of worker and employer organizations in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry.

Solidarity Center
Implementing Partners:
Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE)
Contact Information:
(202) 693-4843 / Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking (OCFT)
Forced labor
Acceptable Conditions of Work
Forced Labor
Freedom of Association
Social Compliance
Supply Chains