The Sport and Rights Alliance (SRA) is a coalition of leading NGOs, sports organizations and trade unions. It was founded in early 2015 to address the decision-makers of international sports mega-events to introduce measures to ensure these events are always organized in a way that respects human rights (including labour rights), the environment and anti-corruption requirements at all stages of the process – from bidding, through to the development and delivery phase to final reporting. The SRA includes Amnesty International, Football Supporters Europe, Human Rights Watch, the International Trade Union Confederation, and Transparency International Germany.
International Olympic Committee: Rights-Respecting Olympics
New International Olympic Committee (IOC) standards and procedures must lead to clean up of Olympic sports events. According to the SRA all Olympic host countries should ensure protection of human rights, including labour and free media protections, and implement anti-corruption measures in the lead-up to and during Olympic Games. To this end, the IOC should adopt robust due diligence procedures to ensure that Olympic Games do not cause or contribute to human rights abuses in the hosting or staging of an Olympic event.
All these standards should not be based on goodwill, but should be non-negotiable and binding for all stakeholders. In addition, the IOC should develop from the very beginning an independent monitoring mechanism to make sure promises made in the bidding phase and fixed in the host city contract are adhered to over the lifetime of the event.
The SRA initiative followed international outrage over Russia’s appalling record on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights, workers’ rights, forced evictions, environmental protection, and freedom of expression in the run-up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. In addition, the SRA is concerned police violence and forced evictions in Brazil ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics, as well as recent allegations of corruption in international and national sports federations.
New IOC standards must lead to clean global sports events.
The Sport and Rights Alliance has drawn up minimum requirements for human rights, labour rights, anti-corruption and stakeholder involvement for Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement.
European Olympic Committee: Games in Azerbaijan
The Sport and Rights Alliance called on the European Olympic Committee (EOC) to use their influence with Azerbaijan to take three steps before the 12 June 2015 opening ceremony:
• Immediately and unconditionally release all unjustly imprisoned journalists and human rights activists.
• End the harassment, intimidation, arbitrary detention, and politically motivated prosecution of human rights of activists, lawyers, journalists, opposition members and others for the legitimate exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
• Refrain from the arbitrary denial of registration to human rights and pro-democracy groups and amend the law on nongovernmental groups that unduly restricts media outlets, human rights organizations, and other independent groups from functioning and carrying out legitimate work.
European Olympic Committee: Games in Minsk
The Sport and Rights Alliance has urged the European Olympic Committee (EOC) to call on the Belarusian government to improve human rights in the country ahead of the 2019 European Games in Minsk. Otherwise, the EOC risks failing to comply once again with international human rights standards and the Olympic Charter.
FIFA, human rights and transparency
New standards and procedures must lead to clean up of global football events. According to the SRA all host countries for major Football Championships should ensure protection of human rights, including labour and free media protections, and implement anti-corruption measures in the lead-up to and during a championship. To this end, the FIFA should adopt robust due diligence procedures to ensure that Football Championships do not cause or contribute to human rights abuses in the hosting or staging of the event.
All these standards should not be based on goodwill, but should be non-negotiable and binding for all stakeholders. In addition, the FIFA should develop from the very beginning an independent monitoring mechanism to make sure promises made in the bidding phase and fixed in the host city contract are adhered to over the lifetime of the event.
The SRA is concerned about the abuse of rights of migrant workers building infrastructure for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, police violence and forced evictions directly related to football events (as seen in the run-up to the World Cup 2014 in Brazil), as well as recent allegations of corruption in international and national sports federations.
One month before the election of a new president in April 2015, the Sport and Rights Coalition urged the four FIFA presidential candidates to explicitly commit to addressing human rights. Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, Sepp Blatter, Luis Figo and Michael van Praag were asked whether they would address corruption, labour issues and other human rights concerns over the Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 World Cups in the first 100 days of their presidency.
In December 2015, FIFA asked John Ruggie to develop recommendations on what it means for FIFA to embed respect for human rights across its global operations. The authoritative standard for doing so is the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (‘UNGPs’), endorsed by the UN in June 2011, of which he also was the author. This report first lays out the relevant human rights context for FIFA, and then presents 25 detailed recommendations for action.
FIFA has been beset by allegations about human rights abuses in connection with its events and relationships. Prominent among them have been reported deaths among migrant construction workers in Qatar, which was awarded the 2022 Men’s World Cup, and the country’s kafala system that often leaves migrant workers in situations of bonded labor. Other tournaments have raised concerns about forced evictions of poor communities to make way for stadiums and other infrastructure, and clamp-downs on freedom of expression among citizens and journalists. There has been less media attention on some other human rights risks, though plenty of concern among those who follow these issues. They include risks to workers’ rights in FIFA’s own supply chains, alleged trafficking of young players, and endemic discrimination against women in the world of association football.
John G. Ruggie is the Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Affiliated Professor in International Legal Studies at Harvard Law School.
Pledge card FIFA candidates
Amnesty International, Football Supporters Europe, Human Rights Watch, Terre des Hommes and Transparency International Germany are asking all candidates to commit – if elected president – to taking six clear steps that will put FIFA on the road to ensuring its events do not cause or contribute to human rights abuses and corruption.
It is our view that FIFA needs fundamental change and these must be monitored independently in order to ensure effectiveness and restore trust. A new president can and should mean a new start for FIFA, and we hope whoever wins will commit to wholesale reform, beginning with these six steps. Otherwise, the world’s most prestigious celebration of the most popular sport on the planet may well continue to be overshadowed by corruption and abuse.
We are asking all candidates for the FIFA presidency to pledge their commitment to taking six steps within the first 100 days of his term if elected, in six areas related to human rights:
Russia 2018 / Qatar 2022
Governance and Compliance
EU Guiding Principles relating to democracy, human rights and labour rights in the context of major sport events
With sports and ethics enjoying high priority status on the agenda of the Netherlands Presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2016, the European Union has a clear opportunity to firmly embed the entire life-cycle, from bid to legacy, of major sport events (MSEs) such as Olympic Games and FIFA World Cups in human and labour rights as well as governance principles and standards.
To this end the EU Expert Group on Good Governance has worked on a set of EU Guiding Principles that should guarantee respect for and protection of human rights throughout the entire life-cycle of future MSEs. However, the SRA is highly concerned that the intermediate draft of these EU Guiding Principles reveals serious flaws that would constitute a major step backwards instead of enforcing compliance of the IOC, FIFA and other sport governing bodies with their human rights, labour rights and governance responsibilities.
Regrettably, the draft EU Guiding Principles focus on the awarding, whereas the bid, preparation, delivery and legacy phases of Olympic Games and FIFA World Cups have shown that humman rights and labour abuses and corruption are rampant in all stages of the event. In addition, the EU Guiding Principles merely call upon future host countries and cities to commit to human rights, whereas the SRA believes that host governments and sports governing bodies should be legally bound by the stipulations in the host contract, which should include state guarantees and obligations to be respected between the parties to the contract. The contract should encompass provisions on access to effective remedy, monitoring, reporting and sanctions in case of non-compliance.
The SRA calls on the EU Expert Group on Good Governance to make their Guiding Principles a strong force in seeking behavioral change with sport governing bodies and organizing countries.
Building on the EU Guiding Principles, the Council adopted Conclusions on enhancing integrity, transparency and good governance in major sport events proposing several measures to implement these principles at national and European level during all stages of such events (feasibility, bidding, preparation, organisation, evaluation, legacy), including after their closure.
Diverse Coalition commits to making human rights central to the planning, delivery and legacy of mega-sporting events
A diverse coalition of multi-stakeholders engaged in sport and human rights, including governments, inter-governmental organizations, sport governing bodies, local organizing committees, sponsors, broadcasters and business groups, trade unions, civil society, non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions, including three NGOs from the Sport and Human Rights Alliance (SRA), published a joint statement on 14 June 2016 committing to making human rights central to the planning, delivery and legacy of mega sporting events.
The organizations participate in the recently formed Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee intended to assess the need for innovative efforts on these issues, including the potential for establishing a new independent centre for human rights learning, legacy and accountability for mega-sporting events.
At the ‘Sporting Chance Forum’ – a major international gathering focused on improving understanding and collaboration on ways to address the human rights and labor impacts of global mega-sporting events, such as the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup – the ‘Sporting Chance Principles’ were published. These principles set out eight high-level values that should guide efforts to address the human rights and labor rights impacts of mega-sporting events.