Diverse Coalition Commits to Making Human Rights Central to the Planning, Delivery and Legacy of Mega-Sporting Events
Mega sporting events have the potential to help catalyze greater respect for human rights and international labour standards. The efforts of public and private actors involved in the delivery of these events contribute to a range of benefits including new jobs, improved infrastructure such as public transport and digital access, increased tourism and the promotion of healthy life styles. Each major sporting event has the potential to bring lasting positive social impacts.
Head of UNI World Athletes Brendan Schwab said, “The Executive Committee of UNI World Athletes is committed to ensuring human rights are respected within the world of sport. This commitment extends beyond the 85,000 players we represent to everyone involved in the delivery of sport. As the world players’ association, we cannot tolerate a situation where players are being asked to play in stadia in which workers, though the denial of their fundamental rights, suffered or even died.
“International sporting bodies can wield immense power. Too often, that power has been used to advance only the commercial or political interests of the sporting body. That power can also be a force for good – to ensure that universal human rights are promoted, respected and fulfilled for everyone that makes sport possible.
“The Mega Sports Events Steering Committee represents a generational opportunity to change sport for the better, and help restore its essential values. We congratulate all stakeholders in committing themselves to this vital initiative.”
At the same time, there are significant human rights risks and challenges at every stage of the lifecycle of a major sporting event. Past events have been marked by incidents of forced displacement, workplace deaths and labour rights violations, adverse impacts on the livelihoods of small businesses and street vendors, constraints on freedom of expression, security related abuses, exploitation of children and mistreatment of athletes and spectators. These problems have not been adequately addressed.
More effective strategies are needed to prevent, mitigate and remedy abuses of human rights and labour standards associated with major sporting events, from planning through to legacy. To address these challenges, a diverse group of stakeholders has come together to advance dialogue and cooperation. Our organizations are pleased to be participating 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.
The Steering Committee met recently in Geneva to discuss a series of "test track" activities and plans for a major international conference in October 2016 to reflect on progress and next steps. Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, is chairing the Steering Committee.
We believe a more comprehensive and consistent approach is needed in managing social risks and adverse human rights impacts arising from major sporting events. Turning this vision into reality will require concrete action. We are committed to working with others to promote learning and capacity-building for all actors involved, and to overcome the current lack of knowledge transfer and good practice on social and human rights issues within and between sport traditions and events.
We believe affected groups need a stronger voice in decision-making around the planning and delivery of major sporting events, including access to effective remedies for victims in cases where abuses occur.
The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, alongside other international instruments such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, constitute the rules of the game for governments, businesses, sports bodies and other actors. Successfully integrating these standards across all stages of major sporting events will require an inclusive approach involving all interested actors including sports federations, local organizing committees, governments, sponsors and broadcasters, workers and athletes, through to those representing vulnerable and at risk groups.
We invite all those interested to join in working towards these collective aims. We welcome the efforts of the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) to facilitate ongoing dialogue and cooperation and we look forward to a conference on Mega-Sporting Events and Human Rights to be held in Washington, D.C. in October 2016, which will take stock of these efforts and plan future steps.