Two experts have issued urgent warnings about the impact of the Olympic Games on Rio’s most vulnerable children.
Researchers Dr Andrea Rodriguez and Professor Lorraine van Blerk recently published this report which found that the FIFA World Cup in 2014 led to an increase in police violence, displacement, sexual exploitation and child labour in Brazil.
Their expectation is that the Games, which begin today in Rio amid a backdrop of political turmoil and economic recession, will only exacerbate these same issues.
Over 77,000 people have been forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for Olympics construction, and over 2,500 people have been killed by police since Rio was awarded the Games in 2009, including a 103% increase in the three months between April and June 2016.
Terre des Hommes and fellow members of the Sports and Rights Alliance this week issued the International Olympic Committee (IOC) with a list of recommendations aimed at preventing similar human rights violations being repeated at future Games. Discussions will continue over changes to the Host City Contract in the coming months.
Co-author of the World Cup report, Dr Rodriguez of the University of Dundee, worked for many years with favela residents, young offenders and child victims of violence. She has backed Children Win’s call for Mega Sporting Events organisers to make children’s rights a priority during the host bidding process.
She told us: “To guarantee the protection of children’s rights before, during and after MSEs, a ‘social risk legacy impact assessment’ should be part of any successful bid. They are essential.
“MSE organisers should ensure the development of new standards to protect children within countries bidding to host an event such as the World Cup and Olympics.
“This should explain how the children will be protected from risks during this period, including the main violations identified in our research; police violence, displacement, sexual exploitation and child labour.”
Rio native Dr Rodriguez co-authored of the chapter on children and adolescents in the “Mega-Events and Human Rights Violations in Rio de Janeiro Dossier”, published by Terre des Hommes and the World Cup and Olympics Popular Committee of Rio de Janeiro.
The dossier’s findings showed that all the areas of concern raised by their World Cup report still existed. “Taking displacement as an example, the situation has only got worse,” said Dr Rodriguez.
Data compiled by Dial 100 (a national service for the protection of human rights including violations with children and adolescents as victims) stated an increase of 1,658 complaints during the month of the 2014 FIFA World Cup compared to the same period in 2013.
Reports of sexual exploitation against children and young people in the 12 host cities increased by 41.22%. This resulted mainly from the creation of new areas of prostitution stemming from renovations of the stadiums and also increased presence of adolescents in existing prostitution zones.
Dr Rodriguez states that the legislation in place Brazil – namely the Statute of the Child and Adolescent (ECA) – is “fantastic” in its principles and scope of protection to cope with all types of violations. “However, the greatest challenge is to put it into practice,” she added.
“The Government needs to strengthen the system of guarantee of rights to children and adolescents, especially around MSEs,” she continued.
“One of the biggest problems in Brazil is the lack of infrastructure and ability to keep a record of all complaints and investigate cases of violence against children. There are serious challenges in terms of the number of professionals insufficient to meet the demands, to produce statistics and evaluations of the impacts of the services’ protection on young population.
“We recommend that collaboration between Government and civil society is used as a platform to ensure children’s rights policies are more strictly kept in place during MSEs.
“This enforcement should be complimented by a review of all existing policies already in place in any host nation to identify where impacts on children may emerge. This could include policies related to all aspects of MSE organisation and preparation, for example, those related to construction, transport and security. Specifically, the police (and army) as this type of violation emerged as significant in the context of the World Cup.
“We recommend that MSE organisers ensure Governments, and Local Organizing Committees work with local security forces for the safety of visitors but also the general population and marginalized children in particular.”
Dundee University’s Professor Lorraine van Blerk, co-author of the report on the 2014 FIFA World Cup, added: “Our research highlights how increased securitisation in the run up to the World Cup, coupled with Brazil’s particular history of military policing and socioeconomic inequalities, led to an increase in violence toward children, displacement of them and their families and further associated consequences. Looking ahead to the Olympics, our research paints a challenging picture for children’s rights.”