Harvard prof to craft FIFA human rights standards


LONDON — FIFA has tasked a Harvard professor with formulating human rights requirements for World Cup hosts and sponsors of the scandal-tarnished governing body.

John Ruggie will provide a report in March showing how business and human rights principles he conceived for the United Nations can speedily become part of FIFA’s statues.

"I hope everyone at FIFA is taking these issues seriously because the future of FIFA is at stake," Ruggie told The Associated Press. "I suspect given the pressure FIFA is under they should look to it as a helpful tool and get on with it."

Following Ruggie’s review, such requirements will be an integral condition for countries entering bidding for the 2026 World Cup, with the process yet to be launched.

FIFA prioritizing human rights issues in every aspect of its operations — from competitions to day-to-day contracts — appears to be a response to concerns about worker rights in Qatar in the five years since the Gulf nation won the right to stage the 2022 World Cup.

"If the guiding principles had been in place in the context of the (2022) FIFA bidding requirements, the requirements themselves would have looked very different," Ruggie said in response to questions about Qatar.

"We are not asking FIFA to solve every global human rights problem but what the recommendations will require is that they become aware of the human rights impact of their own activities, relationships and events, and they have adequate procedures in place to avoid those adverse consequences."

Qatar organizers say no workers have died during 14 million man hours on stadium projects, which have more stringent regulations than the country’s own laws. The scrutiny of Qatar has centred on non-World Cup projects, with the government yet to approve much-talked about labour reforms.

"These reforms may not be coming quick enough for some people but our focus is on sustainable change," 2022 World Cup organizing head Hassan Al Thawadi said Monday on the supreme committee’s website.

If Ruggie’s envisaged proposals to FIFA had been in place at the time of the 2022 World Cup vote, Qatar would have been mandated to commit then to overhauling its labour laws.

"A host country would have had two choices: either not to bid or agree to the conditions in which the bid was reviewed and accepted," Ruggie said.

Ruggie’s rules will not just cover construction workers at stadiums but also, for example, security forces protecting World Cup venues, ensuring they are adequately trained in the use of firearms and crowd control while controlling demonstrations without violence.

A source of anger in Brazil ahead of the 2014 World Cup was over the displacing of communities to build stadiums, which is unacceptable to Ruggie without the agreement of locals.

"There are international rules that go along with needing to adequately consult and compensate communities," Ruggie said. "You don’t just send in the bulldozers to raze homes to the ground so you can build a stadium."

The new regulations will also cover the working practices of FIFA sponsors. Adidas, for example, would have to prove that its workers operate in good conditions and are adequately paid to make World Cup balls.

"For many years, the Adidas Group has been committed to ensuring fair labour practices, fair wages and safe working conditions in factories throughout our global supply chain," the German sportswear giant said in a statement.

Ruggie said it is important for FIFA to "conduct adequate due diligence to make sure that none of the activities that they themselves control or are otherwise involved in infringe upon the human rights of individuals or harm communities that they impact."

After initially being approached in August by now-suspended FIFA President Sepp Blatter, Ruggie has spent the last four months in talks with the governing body to ensure he had editorial control of the final report.

"That was the most difficult issue," Ruggie said. "They wanted certain powers of review … but ultimate editorial control remains with me and Harvard."

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