UNI World Athletes President Don Fehr addresses Sporting Chance Forum
UNI World Athletes President Don Fehr speaking at the recent two-day global event, ‘Sporting Chance Forum on Mega-Sporting Events and Human Rights’ in Washington D.C., explained that many athletes understood their responsibilities: “The athletes, of course, are very concerned about human rights, very concerned about labour rights and recognise that neither means very much if there is not a prompt and and effective remedy that can be employed when the line is crossed.
The Forum convened more than 130 senior officials, executives, and experts to highlight and devise effective strategies to address the human rights challenges associated with mega-sporting events at every stage of the event lifecycle, from planning through legacy.
The organisers of the Forum, the Institute of Human Rights and Business (IHRB), the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and the US Depart of State, said it was clear that sport has a unique capacity to inspire humanity, and mega-sporting events (MSE) have great potential to positively impact the lives of people in the countries that host them. But, they said, such large-scale events also involve significant risks to human rights and labor rights. After years of rising public concern in the arena of major global sports tournaments new collaborative efforts were needed, they argued.
In his remarks, Don Fehr, who is hugely respected figure in world sport and currently executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association, explained why an organisation like UNI World Athletics was needed: “Unions that belong to this organisation have members all over the world, many many different sports with more joining all the time. And they recognise that that their members – not the unions - their members are both the face of the games and the face of the sponsors and the other business interests who want to become involved. That’s important.”
Head of UNI World Athletes, Brendan Schwab also spoke at the event, delivering a white paper on workers’ rights in sport and how human rights were an essential underpinning part of that equation.
Schwab said, “UNI World Athletes, on behalf of its affiliates and member athletes, has a three-part goal in relation to human rights in sport. First, the human rights of everyone involved in the delivery of sport must be respected, promoted and upheld. Second, the same must be true for the athletes. Third, the impact of sport must be positive, including in social, environmental and cultural terms.
“As the highly visible pinnacle of world sport, mega sporting events must at all times fully deliver on this goal. Further, the attainment of this goal in full is necessary if sport is to retain its social license.”
The Forum convenes more than 130 senior officials, executives, and experts to highlight and devise effective strategies to address the human rights challenges associated with mega-sporting events at every stage of the event lifecycle, from planning through legacy.
The Forum was opened by Martina Navratilova, legendary Czech-American tennis champion, coach, and advocate for LGBTI and women’s rights. Hear and read full transcript of her speech here: (https://www.ihrb.org/focus-areas/mega-sporting-events/speech-by-martina-...)
Navratilova said the Forum had to deliver on three goals:
- First, is that those individuals, organizations and activists present work together to apply comprehensive human rights standards to the bidding process for every mega-sporting event:
- My second hope is that these standards are agreed and adopted
- My third hope is that we can work together to create mechanisms for accountability. In order to transform our sporting events into becoming the forces for good that I know they can be, we need our sport governing bodies themselves to be accountable
Ms. Mary Robinson—former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner on Human Right serves as the honorary chair of the Forum which was held over two days 13-14 October.
The Forum introduced the Sporting Chance Principles on Human Rights in Mega-Sporting Events, which are now open for all public statements of support. These Principles – put forward by the Forum co-hosts – aim to underpin the common goal of ensuring that mega-sporting events showcasing the best in humanity are built on respect for human rights throughout their lifecycle.
Pictured above (from left): Donald Fehr (President, UNI World Athletes); Greg Vines (Deputy Director-General, International Labor Organization); David Grevemberg (Chief Executive, Commonwealth Games Federation); Linda Kromjong (Secretary General, International Organisation of Employers); Tony Blinken (US Deputy Secretary of State); Virginia Bennett (US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State); Mary Robinson (former President of Ireland, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, honorary Chair of Sporting Chance Forum); Alexandre Fasel (Swiss Deputy State Secretary); Anita DeFrantz (Executive Board Member, International Olympic Committee); Tim Noonan (Campaigns and Communications Director, International Trade Union Confederation).
The Forum was introduced by Forum co-hosts US Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Swiss Deputy State Secretary Alexandre Fasel and Honorary Chair of the Forum Mary Robinson. The Forum's opening session was live streamed, featuring presentations from International Labor Organization Deputy Director-General Greg Vines, International Olympic Committee Executive Board Member Anita DeFrantz, Commonwealth Games Federation Chief Executive David Grevemberg, and UNI World Athletes President Donald Fehr. The keynote speech was given by Martina Navratilova, legendary Czech-American tennis champion, coach, and advocate for LGBTI and women’s rights.