UN watchdog praises Uzbekistan for tentative progress on child labour

An Uzbek farmer tills a cotton field outside Tashkent, May 20, 2005 (AFP Photo/Denis Sinyakov) (AFP/File)

Tashkent (AFP) - An expert with the International Labour Organisation praised major cotton exporter Uzbekistan for making tentative progress in moving to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.

Harri Taliga, an expert with the UN's labour watchdog based in Uzbekistan, said the Central Asian nation conducted for the first time this year its own monitoring of government-led efforts to eradicate the use of child labour in its cotton fields.

"I can say that Uzbekistan has handled well its own monitoring of child labour during cotton harvesting," said Taliga, who assists the Uzbek government in its monitoring programme.

"Things are improving," he said during a presentation on Friday.

In 2008, Uzbekistan ratified the watchdog's Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention and approved a national programme to eliminate child labour.

This year, Uzbekistan -- with assistance from the ILO -- conducted its own monitoring of efforts to eliminate the use of children under 18 to pick cotton following a recommendation from the watchdog.

"The monitoring conducted by Uzbekistan with technical assistance from the ILO is the continuation of joint monitoring efforts by Uzbekistan and ILO in 2013," said Taliga.

"I personally was happy to learn that many of the recommendations made last year after our joint monitoring have already been implemented this year."

He added that the results would be reviewed by ILO experts in Geneva at a later stage.

During this year's cotton harvesting the Uzbek monitoring group identified 49 instances where youths under 18 were present in cotton fields, according to a report on the monitoring results.

The report claimed that 41 of them were picking cotton -- at their own initiative or the initiative of their parents.

As the result a number of farmers and college directors were fined a total of 12 million sums ($5,000), the report said.

Uzbekistan, the world's fifth-largest cotton exporter, produced 3.3 million tons of cotton this year.

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