The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) launched a new Better Work programme in Uzbekistan, according to a report by the IFC to Gazeta.uz. The programme aims to improve working conditions and drive competitiveness in the country’s key textile and garment industry.

IFC, ILO and Uzbekistan tripartite constituents — including government, employers, and workers' organizations — signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on May 30 setting out the conditions for the programme, which will initially be operational for 24 months.

The Better Work programme will promote labour standards and competitiveness in textile and garment factories through compliance assessments, training and advisory services. It will also act as an industry convener and help ensure labor standards are upheld in Uzbek textile and garment factories.

“The programme will support the sustainable growth of textile and garment manufacturing, which has the potential to create thousands of new, decent jobs for mostly women garment workers in rural areas across the country,” said Conor Boyle, Officer-in-Charge of Better Work.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) builds on long-term efforts by the Uzbek government, World Bank Group, ILO and other stakeholders to improve labor and environmental standards in cotton fields. IFC has supported the cotton and textile industry in Uzbekistan since 2016 with advisory support and investments.

The ILO has had a presence in the textile sector in Uzbekistan since 2013, including by monitoring the cotton harvest, and in 2022 reported the eradication of systemic child and forced labour in the Uzbek cotton production cycle. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has provided initial funding for the Better Work Uzbekistan programme.

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Lukas Casey, IFC Manager for Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Services in the Middle East, Central Asia and Türkiye, said: “We hope Better Work’s presence will send a strong signal to global apparel brands and retailers, some of whom are already considering sourcing from Uzbekistan, about the strength and sustainability of the Uzbek textile & garment industry.”