The following article was contributed by the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Seoul for publication by The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news publications since 1985.—Ed.
In recent years, under the leadership of President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, systemic reforms have been carried out in our country on the basis of the idea of "New Uzbekistan - a democratic and humane state" aimed at building a new Uzbekistan and ensuring the well-being of our people. Importantly, these efforts are yielding expected results.
This can be seen in the fact that as a result of systemic reforms in our new Uzbekistan, a new spirit and mood, a new life, which meets the age-old aspirations of our people and meets our national interests, is entering our way of life.
As the head of our state noted, New Uzbekistan is a country that develops on the principles of friendly cooperation with the world community, adhering to universally recognized norms and principles of democracy, human rights and freedoms, and ultimately aims to create free and prosperous life for our people.
The reforms are based on the tasks of serving the people, obtaining the consent of the population, living with its pain, solving its problems.
Importantly, in this process great attention is paid to ensuring human rights and freedoms while maintaining openness and transparency. The main result in this direction and the international recognition is that for the first time Uzbekistan has been elected a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council for a term of three years - 2021-2023.
Improving the system of labor relations, ensuring employment, creating decent working conditions and preventing forced labor have become a key task in ensuring human rights and have risen to the level of government policy.
The following principles serve as the basis for raising to a qualitatively new stage of systematic work in this direction, achieved results and, most importantly, a positive impact on the interests of all segments of the population:
-transparency of public administration;
-communication with the people;
-full support of civil society institutions;
-assess any situation related to forced labor as an emergency;
-systematic provision and protection of the rights of citizens abroad;
-introduction of international standards in the system of decent work.
Thanks to the strong political will of the President of our country Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the system of labor relations has been radically reformed, comprehensive changes have been carried out in the field, significant results have been achieved in eliminating forced labor.
A clear example of this is the lifting of the "cotton boycott" imposed on Uzbekistan by the international coalition " Cotton Campaign" on March 10 this year.
It should be noted that the abolition of the boycott of Uzbek cotton will create millions of new jobs in our country, especially in the regions, increase employment, open new markets and implement many promising investment projects.
Also, in 2016, the European Parliament decided to join the Textile Protocol of Uzbekistan due to the elimination of systemic child labor in our country.
In 2020, the US Trade Representative (USTR) announced Uzbekistan's compliance with the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) on labor rights and concluded that based on the European Commission's analysis, Uzbekistan meets the criteria for participation in GSP + .
Last year , the US State Department included Uzbekistan in the list of "second-category countries" in its annual report on human trafficking in the world.
These successes are the result of structural reforms in the field of labor relations, which have been implemented in the following areas:
-strengthening the legislative and organizational framework;
-implementation of international standards;
-development of institutional framework;
-systematic monitoring and research;
-intensification of cooperation with civil society and specialized international organizations.
National legislation has been improved
In order to counter human trafficking and forced labor, ensure the labor rights of citizens, bring legislation in line with international standards, eliminate existing problems, 16 regulatory legal acts were adopted in 2021, including 4 laws, 2 decrees and 4 resolutions of the President, 6 resolutions of the government .
In order to further strengthen the guarantees of protection of the interests of minors, amendments and additions were made to the Criminal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and the Code of Administrative Liability.
As a result, criminal liability was established for the initial actions of perpetrators of child labor, and criminal liability was increased for using children for prostitution and encouraging them to participate in the activities of illegal public associations and forcing them into forced labor.
The ILO Conventions on the Fundamentals of Safety and Health at Work and on Safety and Health in Construction were ratified.
In improving national legislation the main attention was paid to the implementation of international norms and standards. In this regard, multifaceted cooperation with the International Labor Organization has been established. Over the past 10 years, Uzbekistan and the International Labor Organization have worked effectively to combat forced labor, monitor compliance with labor rights, and introduce international standards into labor relations.
As To date, Uzbekistan has ratified 19 ILO conventions, including 8 core and 4 directive conventions.
Uzbekistan annually ratified an average of two ILO conventions and actively participated in the campaign to ratify international labor standards, timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of this institution.
Thus, by improving the legal framework in the field of combating forced labor and ratifying international conventions, legal gaps in this area have been eliminated and punishments for crimes have been strengthened in accordance with international standards.
The organizational and institutional base has been strengthened in accordance with modern requirements
Particular attention is paid to the implementation of the principles of decent work, the development of the institutional framework in the fight against forced labor .
The creation of national and regional commissions to combat human trafficking and forced labor, as well as the creation of the Institute of National Rapporteur on these issues, makes it possible to comprehensively coordinate work in this area both at the national and local levels.
One of the priorities of the National Commission is the development and implementation of specific measures to create decent working conditions for all citizens, ensure labor rights and combat forced labor.
The National Commission, together with its members, will take comprehensive measures to improve the activities of relevant ministries and departments, strengthen interaction with civil society, including with foreign partners. All recommendations of international partners and representatives of civil society will be taken into account when developing comprehensive measures.
In addition, the National Commission pays special attention to improving the national organizational and legal framework, introducing international standards, developing the institutional framework, analyzing the effectiveness of work in this area and a systematic approach to solving existing problems. To this end, effective cooperation has been established with representatives of civil society and relevant international organizations.
In this regard, I would like to dwell on the specifics of the work of the National Commission for Combating Forced Labor:
-developing and organizing the implementation and monitors the implementation of state programs and other programs in the field of combating forced labor;
-monitoring the practice of detecting and suppressing crimes in this area;
-paying special attention to effective international cooperation in this area.
It should be noted that the Confederation of Employers of Uzbekistan, established in 2018 to protect the legitimate interests and rights of employers on the principles of the International Labor Organization, also plays an important role in the fight against forced labor.
At present, this structure plays an important role in the full establishment of trilateral cooperation in the field of labor relations in our country.
In 2019, Uzbekistan ratified the ILO Tripartite Consultation Convention to Promote the Application of International Labor Standards, and the Republican Tripartite Commission on Social and Labor Issues was established to ensure its implementation.
It is noteworthy that in a short time this commission has considered more than 120 draft normative legal acts in the field of social work. Large-scale work is underway to inform employees about the content of the adopted laws, improve their legal culture and comprehensively protect labor rights and interests. .
Agricultural reform is one of the important directions of state policy
Agrarian reform is also one of the most important directions of state policy. Therefore, within the framework of the Strategy for the Development of Agriculture of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2020-2030, systemic measures are being taken in the field of agriculture.
One of the boldest steps in this direction was the creation of cluster activities, especially in the agrarian system. After all, its goal is to form a single chain that unites the entire process of manufacturing, that is, from growing raw materials to processing them and producing finished products.
Thus, in recent years, much attention has been paid to reforming agriculture and adapting it to market requirements. To this end, active work is being carried out to mechanize the process of growing and harvesting cotton. As a result, it should be noted that in 2021 about 12% of the crop (8.5% in 2020) was harvested using cotton pickers.
In addition, special attention is paid to the salary of assemblers. In 2021, the fee for 1 kg of hand-picked raw cotton has increased by almost 10 times compared to 2015. Work in this direction is one of the key factors in the prevention of forced labor in our country.
What are the monitoring results?
Systematic monitoring of compliance with labor relations, combating forced labor and child labor has been established throughout the country.
It should be noted that since 2015, the International Labor Organization has been conducting "Third Party Monitoring" to prevent child labor and forced labor in the cotton sector.
In the early years, this monitoring was conducted with the participation of international experts. Since 2018, activists of local civil society institutions have been involved to this process. In 2021, it was organized by independent observers representing full civil society institutions.
We are pleased that the results of monitoring over the past 6 years have been showing full elimination of systematic forced labor. ILO experts have made a final conclusion that Uzbekistan did not not use systematic forced labor during the cotton harvest in 2021, and announced that the monitoring in this area has been fully transferred to the Uzbek side .
In addition to monitoring the International Labor Organization, the Federation of Trade Unions conducts annual national monitoring and monitoring of the Labor Inspectorate. Accordingly, parliamentary control was established by senators and members of local councils with the participation of journalists and bloggers. Representatives of civil society institutions and human rights activists are also widely involved in this monitoring.
In this process, it is important to organize and conduct an information campaign among the population and labor collectives. In this regard, a number of measures are being taken to raise public awareness of the negative factors of forced labor. For example, in 2021, more than 20,000 events were organized to raise public awareness about the fight against forced labor. Thousands of banners, more than a million flyers and 10,000 posters aimed at preventing forced labor were installed in densely populated areas of all districts and cities.
International cooperation is strengthening
In our country, effective relations are being established with international organizations and foreign partner countries on the prevention of forced labor and child labor, guaranteed protection of the rights and legitimate interests of citizens.
In particular, the National Commission on Trafficking in Persons and Forced Labor has worked with foreign partners such as the International Labor Organization, the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the US Department of State and Labor, and the Cotton Campaign Coalition. Comprehensive measures are being taken to strengthen interaction.
It should be noted that Uzbekistan is a country with a high demographic burden in the labor market. At present, the number of working-age population is 20 million people, employed – 15 million, needing work - 1.3 million people. And every year more than 600,000 young people enter the great life.
As an effective solution to this problem, Uzbekistan is developing a national strategy to promote employment in Uzbekistan with the support of the ILO.
The main directions of the strategy are:
-development of vocational and entrepreneurial training of the unemployed in accordance with the requirements of the labor market;
-assistance in the employment of non-competitive individuals in the labor market, especially women, youth and the disabled;
-improving the regulation of labor relations in order to encourage the formalization of informal labor relations;
-strengthening the system of safe, organized, legal internal and external labor migration;
-improving the system of labor protection through the introduction of international standards.
It is known that decent work occupies a central place in the century-old activity of the International Labor Organization. But it is only in the last decades of this century that the issue has acquired a comprehensive, global character. This is due to the fact that more and more countries around the world need employment and social protection .
In this context, the efforts of states and international organizations on the principles of decent work at the national, regional and global levels open up new strategic opportunities and, most importantly, help to effectively address the problems of labor relations.
The basis of effective cooperation between our country and the ILO is the “Country Program on Decent Work for 2014-2016”, adopted in 2014 and later extended until 2020. Over the past period, all the measures envisaged in this program have been fully implemented.
In order to systematically continue and further develop this cooperation, in September 2021, together with this organization, the Republic of Uzbekistan adopted the Country Program on Decent Work for 2021-2025. The program focuses on the promotion of decent work, reduction of informal employment, and social protection based on international standards.
These labor indicators will serve to develop economic opportunities in the future, provide employment, create new jobs and, most importantly, the sustainable development of society and the state.
It should be noted that Uzbekistan is actively working with international partners to introduce international standards "Better Work" and "BCI" for labor relations. At the end of 2021, Uzbekistan applied to the ILO and the World Bank to consider the possibility of assisting in the implementation of the Better Work program, and received a positive response. Today, systematic work is underway to implement these international standards.
Priorities for the future
It has become a good tradition for the National Rapporteur on the fight against human trafficking and forced labor to analyze the work being done in our country and develop specific proposals and recommendations on issues that need to be addressed in the future.
In particular, the work done in Uzbekistan in this direction by the end of 2021 was analyzed, the results of which were analyzed by the President and relevant instructions were received.
In particular, all the work done by the end of 2021 in this direction was analyzed. The results of the analyze were submitted to the President, who gave relevant instructions for future.
The issue was also discussed at a recent meeting of the National Commission, which adopted a separate "Roadmap" for the implementation of proposals and recommendations contained in the analytical information.
According to the document, this year the fight against forced labor will be continued, contacts with international organizations will be strengthened, new projects and measures will be implemented to ensure human rights and create decent working conditions. In particular, the national legislation in this area will be improved on the basis of international standards, the ratification of a number of labor conventions will be considered.
In turn, monitoring will be carried out not only in agriculture, but also in construction, silk, catering to prevent violations of labor legislation. Of course, representatives of civil society institutions are widely involved in this work.
Reforms in agriculture will be carried out systematically, focusing on creating decent, safe working conditions in the sector, achieving decent wages and mechanizing the system.
A special set of measures will be developed to establish targeted cooperation with national textile enterprises and international brands and enterprises operating in this field.
In addition, the implementation of international standards will be intensified. This, in turn, creates ample opportunities for us to open new markets and implement new investment projects in our country.
The following is planned to be done:
-national legislation will be improved on the basis of international standards, a number of labor conventions will be ratified;
-systematic monitoring of forced labor will be continued;
-reforms will be further strengthened in the framework of the Agricultural Development Strategy for 2020-2030;
-comprehensive measures will be taken to establish targeted cooperation with national textile enterprises and international brands and enterprises operating in this field;
-work on the implementation of labor standards, such as "Better work" and "BCI" will be intensified;
-a comprehensive information and advocacy campaign aimed at preventing forced labor will be continued;
-support for non-governmental non-profit organizations, the allocation of financial grants for their activities in the labor and social spheres.
In conclusion, due to the strong political will and comprehensive approach to reforms, the widespread application of market economy principles in agriculture, as well as increased payments for harvested cotton, significantly improved working and leisure conditions, the state and the public are constantly monitoring this direction. Significant progress has been made in combating forced labor, and our results are also recognized by the international community. In this sense, we will continue to work consistently in this direction and improve the results. After all, this is extremely important for the development of our country and the well-being of our people.