Human Rights Update

Over one million Uzbek children were forced by their government to pick cotton in the 2012 harvest.

Over one million Uzbek children were forced by their government to pick cotton in the 2012 harvest.

100+ Companies Pledge Against Child Labor, S.E.C. Releases Mineral Rule

Great strides have been made towards improving the plight of child laborers in Uzbekistan and the people of the Congo, who suffer at the hands of warlords that control the country’s mineral resources.

This fall, as the Uzbek government forced children into the cotton fields, the 100th apparel brand joined RSN’s pledge against this form of modern slavery.

Now over 120 apparel industry leaders, including Zara, JCPenney, Patagonia, and Juicy Couture have signed on to tell the Uzbek government and concerned consumers that they refuse to use cotton produced with slave labor.

The pledge’s impact was evident during this year’s harvest as the use of the youngest children was reduced and they were replaced by high school and college students, nurses, and government employees. While the use of forced labor in any form is reprehensible, the shift away from children 6- to 10-year-olds demonstrates that the Uzbek government is feeling the growing international pressure.

RSN’s other human rights initiative focuses on conflict minerals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In August, the Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) issued its rule on the conflict mineral provision of the Dodd-Frank Act. It aims to control conflict minerals that fund warlords who enslave and terrorize the Congolese people.

Now the SEC requires electronics, automotive, jewelry, and even apparel industries to verify the origin of tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold used in their products and disclose if it is conflict-free.

Led by RSN, a coalition of companies, investors, and human rights organizations provided joint recommendations to the SEC to ensure the rule will effectively increase supply chain transparency and encourage safe communities for the men, women, and children of the Congo.

Responsible Sourcing Network (RSN), a project of As You Sow, works to eliminate slavery and human rights abuses in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan and the mineral mines of the Congo.

Image: Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights