Over the past several years, the Uzbekistan government has announced steps to end its use of child labor during the country’s annual cotton harvest. But that does not mean Uzbekistan has stopped forcing its citizens to harvest cotton. It has shifted the burden of compulsory labor onto adults.
Yet, the international community largely has accepted Tashkent’s promises of reform and statements of progress. Even its proposed reforms are mostly cosmetic. And Tashkent’s unwillingness to end forced labor altogether is directly correlated with the level of pressure placed on it by the international community.
A review of U.S. government reports and cables made public through WikiLeaks clearly demonstrates how one key international actor—the United States—repeatedly has rushed to embrace promises of progress that later proved ephemeral. As this policy brief notes, a clear and consistent voice from the United States and international community is necessary to force changes to Uzbekistan’s forced labor program.