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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

UEFA working group says Qatar has ‘accelerated progress’ to address rights concerns

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A team from UEFA is in Qatar to inspect conditions ahead of World Cup 2022.

UEFA’s working group is in Qatar for inspections ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the first such major event to take place in the Middle East. 

In May, UEFA arranged a working group to gather a better or further understanding of human rights in Qatar ahead of next year’s tournament after claims of violations in the Gulf state.

On Tuesday, the group visited Qatar and met with representatives of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Builders and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC), the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the Qatar Football Association, as well as migrant workers. 

They also visited Ras Abu Aboud Stadium, where seven World Cup matches are scheduled to take place next year.

“In our initial meetings we agreed that the working group aims to consolidate the commitment and subsequent input to share with the organisers from a UEFA perspective,” said Michele Uva, UEFA’s Football and Social Responsibility Director.

“We wish to understand the impact the World Cup is having regarding human rights and labour rights.”

Qatar gov. responds after British NGO highlights ‘migrant worker abuse at World Cup hotels’

She noted that football has the power “to create meaningful change” in areas such as human rights, “that’s why we feel it is our duty that we engage strongly in this discussion.

“This first visit to Qatar follows three online meetings and helps us to better understand the situation with the Qatar authorities and to be able to evaluate potential progress and highlight future steps in the human rights journey,” she said. 

Uva thanked Qatari authorities, in particular the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy for their “openness, transparency, and commitment to dialogue.

“We are sure that together we will contribute to improve the legacy of this event,” she continued. 

Meanwhile, member of the UEFA working group and General Secretary of the Royal Netherlands Football Association, Gijs de Jong, recognised Qatar’s efforts in making a positive change and supporting human rights legislation, especially during the last three years. 

“There is no doubt this progress has accelerated as a result of the FIFA World Cup being awarded. The challenge is the legislation is not yet universally adopted, and whilst efforts are being made, there is a need for further work,” he said. 

“We believe the working group and the European associations can play a supporting role in this, as well as in the outline of further development, and hope to do so through continued engagement and dialogue.”

Recommendations

Following the Qatari visit, the working group came back made some recommendations, including minimum standards for federations to adopt for any supplier agreement in Qatar.

“This will include the suggestion that associations should request that any supplier contracted for services in Qatar should have strong consultation with their workers, through committees and workforce forums – this is an initiative already started by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy and that has been taken on by the government in the form of ‘joint committees’ demonstrating the impact of the World Cup,” UEFA stated in its report.

The report stated that the aim is to support sustainable development, “while also ensuring that the European football community can have a direct channel to information and updates on the situation and development within Qatar and the region.”

Lastly, the delegation suggested a review on football’s positive impact on the establishment of workers rights centres in Qatar that will focus on ensuring availability of services and training to migrant workers after the World Cup event. 

The working group also highlighted the importance of including European media in further visits to offer an exclusive insight into the latest developments.

“It is believed this would be key to bridge identified gaps in information, and ensure there is dialogue between institutions on site and the media channels connected to European football,” according to the report. 

 “The working group will ensure to share information with all member associations which are not part of the group, and at the same time invite everyone for further dialogue on an individual basis, if requested,” Zoran Lakovic, UEFA director of national associations said.  

“It is important to have this exchange with the national associations, who can also make sure their coaches and players are aware of the initiatives of the working group,” he added.

According to UEFA, there will be other visits between now and the start of the World Cup in November 2022.

“There are also plans to visit in 2023, to examine the legacy the World Cup leaves behind.”


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