Uzbekistan: US Embassy, UNICEF Minimized Forced Child Labor, Argued Against Boycott
The new WikiLeaks dump of alleged diplomatic cables contains numerous dispatches from Tashkent with troubling new revelations about the downplaying of the issue of forced child labor in the cotton industry in Uzbekistan by both the US Embassy and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), apparently driven by the need to keep good relations with Uzbekistan.
The US Embassy in Tashkent described Uzbek students' annual sojourn to the cotton fields as a rite of passage and a fun social occasion where they play guitars and eat trail mix, discounting reports of NGOs about coerced labor and poor conditions. A Bangladeshi UNICEF official was concerned about the impact Western retailers' boycott of Uzbek cotton over forced child labor was having on his homeland's economy, where traders source cotton from Uzbekistan.
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