Promoting Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work in the Cotton Supply Chain

This project will contribute to the implementation of Decent Work in the cotton supply chain by supporting the implementation of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work in China. It will also support social dialogue on fundamental principles and rights at work at the national and industry levels (national, industry level, workplace and communities), with the aim of supporting a viable system of industrial relations.


Cotton is one of the world most important agricultural commodities, responsible for income, employment generation and food security of millions of farmers' families across regions. It provides income for more than 250 million people worldwide and employs almost 7 per cent of all labour in developing countries. Directly and indirectly affecting significant portions of the population, the sector occupies a strategic position in the development of poverty reduction policies and programs.

The sustainability of cotton production involves addressing its labour impact on farmers, workers, their families and communities. While there is a breadth of diversity in forms and scale of cultivation of cotton ranging from plantations to smallholdings, it is recognized that, in order to increase the sustainability of the cotton and garment industries, small producers and workers should be enabled to work themselves out of poverty in decent conditions with their internationally recognized freedoms intact and for a fair share of the growth.

As human rights and enabling conditions for the realization of decent work, fundamental principles and rights at work are minimum standards enabling economic growth to go hand in hand with human development, and by doing so, they ensure the sustainability of any economic sector. These rights are ranged in four categories, namely freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, the abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

Project objective

The objective of the project is to improve respect for fundamental rights at work for a sustainable cotton supply chain. The project’s strategy is built around two mutually reinforcing outcomes:
  • Improve the knowledge based on fundamental rights at work in the cotton supply chain;
  • Contribute to meaningful stakeholder dialogue and engagement on fundamental rights at work at the industry level.

Expected outcomes

  • Diagnostics on decent work deficits with a particular focus on fundamental principles and rights at work for women and men
  • Social dialogue on fundamental principles and rights at work facilitated through technical assistance in China

Project beneficiaries

The project direct beneficiaries are workers, producers and cotton communities and their organizations in China.