The World Bank has declined to investigate whether agriculture-sector loans to Uzbekistan could perpetuate child and forced labor in the Central Asian country's cotton industry.
The Washington-based lender says the January 23 decision was made, in part, due to "considerable progress" Tashkent has made "in addressing the systemic issues necessary for the eradication of child and forced labor in Uzbekistan's cotton sector."
The decision has drawn harsh criticism from rights activists who have been demanding an investigation.
Umida Niyazova, director of the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, on February 2 called the decision "shocking."
She said: "To millions of victims of forced labor in Uzbekistan, the bank has said that despite recognizing the relationship between their plight and its loans, it is not worth investigating."
Rights advocates have long criticized Uzbek authorities who require state employees, teachers and even children, to work in the cotton fields.