Cambridge, MA – An independent report issued today by John Ruggie, Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School and former top United Nations official on business and human rights, recommends how FIFA - the global governing body of football - needs to manage the far-reaching human rights risks associated with its activities and relationships. Risks include the displacement of communities to make way for stadiums, risks to workers building tournament infrastructure or manufacturing FIFA-branded goods, and systemic challenges such as gender discrimination throughout association football.
Ruggie agreed to review FIFA’s existing policies and processes to manage human rights risks at FIFA’s request, following its mid-2015 announcement that bids for the 2026 Men’s World Cup will have to meet human rights criteria. He undertook the task on the basis that it would result in a public report, subject to his editorial control. The report sets out 25 recommendations for action.
“FIFA governs and supports a global network of over 200 national football associations and is connected through its tournaments to thousands of businesses. As for any international sports organization today, this kind of global footprint brings with it significant risks to people’s basic dignity and welfare. And that reality demands a robust and proactive response. FIFA is not solely responsible for solving these problems where the actions of others are the primary cause. But it must use its influence to address these human rights risks as determinedly as it does to pursue its commercial interests,” said Ruggie.
Ruggie’s recommendations for FIFA are based on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the global standard on business and human rights of which he is the author. In its revised Statutes, adopted in February 2016, FIFA introduced a new provision committing it to respect all internationally recognized human rights.
“The key now is implementation. For my report to have the necessary impact, FIFA’s top leaders need to follow through on its recommendations. That means resourcing the administration adequately for the task and integrating the results of their work into political decision-making. I met with FIFA’s new President Gianni Infantino yesterday and valued the opportunity to discuss my findings and necessary changes at FIFA. It is my sincere hope that he will make this work a priority under his leadership,” said Ruggie. “FIFA’s reputation depends on it.”
“FIFA is fully committed to respecting human rights,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino. “I would like to thank Prof. Ruggie for his work in producing this report, which, together with FIFA’s own analysis and ongoing work, will guide the way forward. This is an ongoing process and of course challenges remain, but FIFA is committed to playing its part in ensuring respect for human rights and to being a leader among international sports organizations in this important area.”
The non-profit organization Shift supported Ruggie in the development of the report. Ruggie will speak on his report at the 2016 Asia Regional Forum on Business and Human Rights, convened by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, on April 19-20 in Doha, Qatar.