The World Bank's somewhat ironic strapline is 'Working for a World free of Poverty.' One of the main instruments for achieving this goal, according to the Bank, is education. Its documents are forever praising 'great' teachers while blaming the majority of them for failing to achieve the goal of Education For All. This site frequently exposes the gross libel that this is on the global teaching profession. However from time to time even the pro-education mask of the World Bank slips.

For years, human rights organisations have been calling on the Bank to investigate the links between its loans to the Uzbek government for agriculture, with forced labour, in particular of children. As we reported in 2012, according to the organisation Cotton Campaign, schools are shut for 2 to 3 months in the autumn and teachers forced to organise the children to go and work in the cotton fields, and then work alongside the children, picking cotton by hand. If teachers refuse they are threatened and liable to dismissal. They also have to lie about the school closures and denial of education to the children, by ensuring that there is no written evidence that school was interrupted. During the Autumn harvest children do not attend school for 2-3 months, and teachers are required to record full and regular attendance in the registration books in order to make it look that the classes are taking place.

Last week the World Bank turned down requests to investigate these abuses on the basis that Tashkent has made, 'considerable progress in addressing the systemic issues necessary for the eradication of child and forced labor in Uzbekistan's cotton sector.' Quite why the World Bank should believe the government's word when the country's 'human rights record is atrocious. Torture is endemic in the criminal justice system. Authorities intensified their crackdown on civil society activists, opposition members and journialists' is not obvious, unless of course it has something to do with the strategic position of the country for US interests.

The Bank's decision has appalled human rights groups. A spokesperson for Human Rights Watch said that the Bank had 'effectively sent a message to the Uzbek government that as long as it pays lip service to addressing the issue, it can continue to force millions of people to work in the cotton fields, and to Uzbekistan's forced laborers, the message is "tough luck".'