Terre des Hommes attended an event at the European Parliament in Brussels aimed at raising awareness of human rights and mega sporting events.
The event, organised by the Parliament’s Sport Intergroup, was attended by activists and sports governing bodies and focused especially on the World Cup finals in Russia next year.
In his opening statement MEP Hannu Takkulu, from the Intergroup, highlighted the integration aspect of big competitions, and of how they should “promote peace and understanding of people irrespective of their origin, culture, religion or sexual orientation”.
However he also noted how, in countries which host major international sport events, “human rights violations increase, people are forcibly evicted from their houses and construction workers building stadiums are exploited. Also minorities such as LGBTIQs are discriminated”.
Takkulu said that the EU has to do everything to protect the rights of athletes, workers, journalists and minorities.
At the event, the LGBT rights network ‘Queering Football’ launched a handbook on human rights and mega sporting events.
Elvina Yuvakaeva, from the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, described the current ideology of the government in Russia. She said they “use scare tactics, for example exploiting the LGBT rights topics to demonstrate the moral decay of the Western world”.
For Yuvakaeva, the World Cup is also an opportunity to change the situation for the better. She added: “We can and must claim from FIFA and the Russian Football Union their full support in implementing inclusive policies in football for LGBT people. Such programmes would be a significant step forward in fighting homophobia.”
MEP Ulrike Lunacek, co-chair of the LGBTIQ Intergroup, said sport events should be something to unite people and “one should go there joyful and not with fear”.
“Imagine you’re a gay, lesbian or bisexual sports person and you go to a country where you shouldn’t be out, this doesn’t help your sport activities.”
Lunacek, who is also a Vice-president of the European Parliament, called on the International Olympic Committee and the European Olympic Committee, as well FIFA, “to really move ahead and make sure that human rights standards and social standards are part of the allocation process, because that’s where it all starts. Otherwise we wouldn’t have the next football World Cups in Russia and Qatar.”
Representing FIFA at the event was Fani Misailidi, Head of Public Affairs. Misailidi acknowledged the world football’s governing body is on a learning curve with regards to ensuring a more systematic human rights approach around its competitions.
“A few years ago we wouldn’t be discussing in those terms,” she said. “The sports bodies needed also some time to review their responsibility in promoting the respect of human rights in their sports competitions.”
With the help of Harvard Professor John Ruggie and as part of its Human Rights Policy, FIFA has identified its most salient risks.
Misailidi admitted there “have to be standards and FIFA is implementing its commitment in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. That’s exactly what we are doing: integrating human rights in the bidding and the hosting documents.”
The recent Confederations Cup in Russia saw the implementation of FIFA’s Anti-Discrimination Monitoring System, in collaboration with the FARE Network. She said: “We had overall a discrimination-free environment at FIFA Confederations Cup, but of course we are aware that next year many more fans will travel for the World Cup.”
Nikola Staritz from the Austrian fairplay Initiative, which co-ordinates the Queering Football project, outlined how issues of LGBT and workers’ rights are being violated and what measures should be taken to tackle the situation in Russia.
She also announced the publication of a handbook on ‘Human rights risks in the context of mega-sport events and how to prevent them”. The handbook, which can be downloaded here, analyses the role played by different stakeholders and introduces relevant documents. It provides a strong policy rationale and arguments for hosting better sport events in future and aims to spark a debate with relevant actors in the field.
“We are convinced that every stakeholder can do a lot and take responsibilities. We only can change something if everybody is doing something,” said Staritz.
The event was hosted by the Sport Intergroup of the European Parliament and took place as part of the Erasmus+ sport project ‘Queering Football – Tackling Homophobia and Promoting Anti-Discrimination around Major Sport Events’, co-funded by the European Commission, and ‘Our Game for Human Rights’, co-funded by the Austrian Development Agency and the Austrian Ministry of Sport.