21 days to go to the AFC Asian Cup, UAE 2019

FIFA advisory board urges it to step up monitoring of construction conditions

By Andrew Warshaw

November 10 – FIFA has been urged by its own advisory board on human rights to step up monitoring risks to those working on construction sites at World Cup venues in Russia and Qatar.

It is one of 33 recommendations of the first report of the governing body’s new so-called Human Rights Advisory Board which comprises eight experts including those from the United Nations, trade unions and sponsors.

It reads as something of a rhetorical set of recommendations in regards to Russia and Qatar where radical steps as regards social change have already been taken, in Qatar in particular.

The panel says FIFA, as a priority, “should focus on building on what has been done to date by continuing to strengthen efforts to address risks to workers’ rights on World Cup stadium construction sites in Russia and Qatar.

“We highlight the long-term commitment required from FIFA to build systems at the operational level that can proactively identify and respond to the most severe human rights risks.”

FIFA has made a commitment to human rights one of the key requirements for those bidding to stage the 2026 World Cup.

That came after FIFA president Gianni Infantino admitted in May there had been human rights abuses of North Korean workers involved in the construction of the Zenit Arena in St Petersburg.

Abuse of workers’ rights has been more of an issue in Qatar though this week the International Labour Organisation ended a potential investigation of the 2022 World Cup hosts following Qatar’s promise to abandon its antiquated  ‘kafala’ system of employment and provide better working conditions generally.

The report, published on Thursday, welcomed FIFA’s new approach but called for further measures. “What matters now is that FIFA demonstrate meaningful steps on the most urgent priorities – meaning those that can have the most severe impacts on people,” the report said.

FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura said the report “shows that FIFA is making important progress in integrating respect for human rights throughout its wide range of activities.”

But James Lynch, Amnesty International’s deputy director of global issues, said it “should be a wake-up call for FIFA, which has held back from using its considerable leverage with regard to Qatar’s abusive sponsorship system.”

Lynch added: “We would like to see some clearer language around key issues, like the exit permit and deaths of migrant workers. The board’s next report needs to be far more explicit on FIFA’s responsibilities around these issues.”

Lynch appears to have missed the encouraging ITUC ‘memo’ on Qatar.

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