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History

Uzbekistan Cotton

Abstract: Since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Uzbekistan has continued to rely on an extractive system of forced child labor in the export-oriented cotton sector. In light of the political costs of this system, which relies on a repressive state apparatus and is detested by the Uzbeks who are victims of it, it is therefore of interest to examine the system from a political economy perspective. The costs and balances of the system are weighed, and its history in Soviet and late Tsarist-period practice is explored. For the foreseeable future, Uzbekistan seems to be in a state of institutional calcification with respect to the system of child labor and the human rights situation more generally. Policy alternatives discussed include engaging without preconditions or significant pressure, refusing to engage in the absence of reforms, and engaging through the use of foreign aid, conditional upon certain reforms. The lattermost option is recommended as the most realistic option for dealing with a fundamentally intransigent situation.