Sky News has learned that FIFA disbanded its Human Rights Board two years ago. They did not respond to a request to immediately replace it with new independent advisors, particularly those who were responsible for the Qatar World Cup.
FIFA’s commitment not to discrimination and exploitation associated with its global football events raises concerns about the downplaying of the importance of independent human rights audits.
An anti-discrimination leader in football believes FIFA must regain the trust of those who feel that human rights checks have been abandoned.
In 2017, FIFA created the human rights advisory panel after concerns about Qatari rights abuses. This was just one year into Gianni Infantino’s presidency. FIFA renewed its initial mandate for two more years in 2019, before dissolving the body.
The FIFA board submitted a final report in February 2021. This was not reported previously.
It recommended that FIFA “moves to embed human rights oversight into its internal governance structures” in order to “gain trust from stakeholders”.
Sky News asked FIFA questions and it revealed that FIFA’s ruling council approved today the creation of a sub-committee on human rights, social responsibility, at a meeting in Qatar.
The names of the members of the board were not available – unlike the independent human rights board that published information about the experts in labor rights, anti-corruption and unions.
FIFA did not seem to conduct an independent, rigorous right scrutiny of Qatar. This was contrary to the key advice of the human Rights Board. However, it did praise Qatar for taking some “substantial actions” in its final report 2021.
While acknowledging Qatar’s progress, the report warned that there are still potential consequences for migrant workers in Qatar.
FIFA was silent during the tournament, as many fans protested wearing rainbow clothing and hats were blocked from entering stadiums.
According to the head of Europe’s largest anti-discrimination organization, FIFA has not done enough on human rights.
Sky News spoke with Piara Powar, executive director of FARE network: “It is quite obvious that since the abolishment of the human rights… committee that had advised them internally, there hasn’t been a degree of scrutiny that could have been.”
“External persons can offer insight, suggestions, and ideas on how human rights due diligence mitigations, and other aspects can be integrated into a tournament such as this.
“It’s clear that FIFA must make big statements about human rights in order to win the trust of people who feel human rights were abandoned for the World Cup.
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Mr Infantino did not make himself available for interviews during the World Cup. He only used a news conference to emphasize that “we are defending human right” two days before Sunday’s final between Argentina, France.
Sky News received a statement from the governing body that stated: “FIFA will work in the coming months to fully erect the Human Rights and Social Responsibility Sub-Committee including the integration of external specialists.”
“This will be in addition to the many issue-specific collaborations and engagements that the FIFA Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Department engages with external stakeholders such UN agencies, international unions, or civil society organizations in different fields.”