WASHINGTON — The government of Uzbekistan wants the boycott against its cotton industry to be over. But it might be hard to convince international brands to begin sourcing from the country as forced labor was still prevalent in the most recent harvest, Eric Gottwald, the deputy director of the International Labor Rights Forum, said Monday during a panel at the National Press Club in Washington.
Uzbekistan is one of the largest cotton producers in the world, but the industry has struggled with child labor in the past and continues to have issues with adult forced labor, according to independent monitors that oversee the country's harvest season. The labor issues have led to a boycott known as the Cotton Campaign, which has called on companies to stop sourcing their cotton from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan due to issues with forced labor. There is also the Uzbek Cotton Pledge started by the Responsible Sourcing Network.