Founded in May 2008, the Cotton Campaign is a network of brands, retail associations, investors and civil society organizations working in collaboration to combat state-led forced labour in cotton production in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The network’s advocacy activities, alongside the work of the ILO and other civil society campaigns, have resulted in significant progress in the elimination of forced labour and child labour in Uzbekistan.
In 2013, the Uzbek Government ended its policy of forcibly mobilizing children nationwide, a major milestone in ending forced labour in cotton production. Over the years, campaign activities resulted in over 270 brand-name retailers committing to avoiding Uzbek cotton until forced labour of children and adults has ended, and similarly with Turkmen cotton while it is produced by state-led forced labour. Although systematic and systemic use of forced labour and child labour in Uzbekistan has come to an end, the ILO states that local vestiges still remain.
In 2019, the Cotton Campaign highlighted concerns of harassment of human rights monitors and journalists highlighting issues of forced labour. In its Third-Party Monitoring in 2020, the ILO reported that it continues to facilitate a dialogue process between the Government and human rights activists, noting that activists freely performed monitoring of harvest. The Cotton Campaign also alleges that systemic forced labour is still prevalent in Turkmenistan.