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Friday, May 7, 2021

New report urges FIFA to increase pressure on Qatar, Russia

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

A new report commissioned by football’s governing body has recommended that FIFA “consider suspending or terminating” its relationship with World Cup hosts who fail to clean up their human rights records.

Authored by Harvard University professor John Ruggie, the report doesn’t specifically call for Qatar to lose the 2022 World Cup or list any changes the country should make.

However, the release of the document – which was commissioned by FIFA in December – comes on the heels of an Amnesty International investigation into abuses on a World Cup construction site that has once again drawn media attention to Qatar’s human rights record.

FIFA has been criticized by Amnesty and others for failing to consider the risk of blue-collar workers being exploited when it awarded Qatar the World Cup in 2010 and being slow to scrutinize the situation on the ground itself.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Much of Ruggie’s new 42-page report is aimed at changing this mindset and encouraging FIFA to add human rights considerations to its decision-making processes.

Specifically, it said that bidders for the World Cup and other FIFA tournaments should explain how they will address human rights risks and meet certain requirements.

However, no details are provided, making it unclear how such a measure would have theoretically affected Qatar’s bid in 2010.

In cases where agreements have already been signed, Ruggie recommended that FIFA pressure tournament organizers to change:

“FIFA will often have opportunities to increase its leverage, for example through collaboration with local stakeholders, sponsors, international organizations, and others. It should use those sources of leverage to the greatest extent possible, especially where severe human rights impacts are involved.

The option of ending a relationship itself is an important source of leverage and should be clearly communicated to bidders, suppliers, licensees and other relevant entities.”

‘Ongoing process’

Despite Amnesty’s findings of abuse at Khalifa International Stadium, human rights experts have generally praised Qatar’s World Cup organizers for taking steps to protect people working on projects directly related to the tournament.

For illustrative purposes only
For illustrative purposes only

Contractors constructing stadiums and training facilities are required to abide by a worker welfare charter that sets out minimum housing and employment conditions that go beyond what is set out in Qatar’s law.

Qatar Foundation and Qatar Rail have similar requirements for their contractors.

But critics said not enough is being done to prevent abuses in Qatar’s wider construction sector, which is building the roads, hotels and other infrastructure needed for the tournament.

They have called on FIFA to immediately put pressure on the country to show it is taking Ruggie’s report seriously:

“FIFA should publicly demand that Qatar act to end migrant worker deaths, and abolish its abusive exit visa system – something that the government could accomplish with the stroke of a pen – as a necessary first step towards reforms,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, in a statement.

For its part, FIFA thanked Ruggie for his report and said the document will “guide the way forward” but stopped short of committing to adopting his recommendations.

“This is an ongoing process and of course challenges remain, but FIFA is committed to playing its part in ensuring respect for human rights and to being a leader among international sports organizations in this important area,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement.

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