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US and EU Cotton Production and Export Policies and Their Impact on West and Central Africa

Coming to Grips with International Human Rights Obligations

Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative | May 1, 2004

Intro: In recent years, world cotton prices have declined significantly. Small-scale cotton farmers in West and Central Africa, whose livelihoods depend on cotton, have borne the brunt of this decline.

The main factors causing the drop in prices are the cotton production and export policies of the United States (US) and the European Union (EU). These policies sit uncomfortably with the letter and spirit of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, as recently confirmed by the WTO Dispute Settlement Body in relation to some US cotton subsidies. It is less well known that these policies are also contrary to the letter and spirit of international human rights law.

This Policy Brief provides an overview of the impact of US and EU cotton production and export policies on the lives of farmers in West and Central African countries. It discusses how efforts by African countries to implement their international human rights commitments are undermined by these policies, and recommends that human rights should be used more proactively by developing countries and human rights and development advocates as part of advocacy and reform strategies.

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Read More: Agriculture, Development, Human Rights, Poverty, Trade, United States, Africa, Europe, Americas

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