On May 27, 2014 more than 20 civil society organizations sent a letter to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim expressing concerns about two proposed new World Bank agricultural sector loans to Uzbekistan, the South Karakalpakstan Water Resource Management Improvement Project and the Horticulture Development Project. Given the real possibility that funding under the new projects could support the Uzbek government’s forced labor system of cotton production civil society strongly urged Dr. Kim to postpone consideration of these loans until the Uzbek government takes concrete steps to end its use of forced labor.
The mass use of forced labor in the cotton sector of Uzbekistan is particularly pernicious in that it is organized by the state. The World Bank acknowledges this problem in project documents for each of the proposed projects. Moreover, in a report issued on the existing RESP II project in December 2013, the Inspection Panel wrote that: “the Bank’s support [for a loan for the modernization and diversification of Uzbekistan’s agriculture sector] may be contributing to a perpetuation of the alleged harm [of forced labor].”