FIFA must become more transparent about how it is integrating human rights criteria into its operations, according to Children Win’s Head of Campaign Marc Joly.

Joly was speaking after the governing body of world football published its first ‘activity update’ on human rights.

The update, published this week alongside a new human rights policy, provides an overview of FIFA’s work in this field one year after its statutory commitment on human rights came into force in April 2016.

It describes four pillars to FIFA’s approach: i) to commit to, and embed, human rights principles in its statutes; ii) to identify and address human rights issues; iii) to protect and remedy them; and iv) to engage and communicate about the work it is doing.

However, in the wake of recent media reports about the mistreatment of North Korean workers at a World Cup 2018 construction site in Russia last year, the document is relatively light with regards to concrete examples of how the  the strategy is being implemented, and how its effectiveness is being measured. Instead, FIFA say a full report developed “in line with international reporting standards” will be published in 2018.

FIFA addressed the situation with the North Korean workers at the Zenit Arena in St Petersburg late last year through its ‘Decent Work Monitoring System’, set up in partnership with the Russian World Cup local organising committee (LOC) and the Klinsky Institute of Labour Protection and Working Conditions.

The update explains how Klinsky made 59 site inspections throughout 2016 and up to May 2017, while FIFA and the LOC also signed a Memorandum of Understanding  with the Building and Woodworkers’ International (BWI) and Russian Construction Workers’ Union (RBWU) for inspections. Because of this, no more North Korean workers were employed at the site when it was inspected again in March.

The update also provides reference to how FIFA is working with “more than a dozen local and international experts” to ensure decent working conditions at construction sites for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, following human rights violations involving migrant workers in previous years. It provides a link to this independent audit by British company Impactt Ltd, published in April 2017.

Other areas covered in the update describe how countries bidding to host World Cup finals in future will be assessed on their commitment to human rights, a new anti-discrimination monitoring system and details on how FIFA is enforcing regulations on the international transfer of minors who are young footballers.

Joly said: “We welcome this activity update, but are asking FIFA to show greater transparency, and to become more accountable for the actions they are taking to safeguard human rights concretely on the ground – and not only by changes on paper.”

With regards to the treatment of migrant workers in Russia last year, he added: “It is unacceptable to find Korean workers in slave-like situations.

“FIFA took a while to react but the reaction took place back in November when they put in place joint inspections, and since April they have improved with the trade unions what they are looking at in the joint inspections. That is a sign of progress.

“However, the focus shouldn’t be on the fact that the remedy is taking a long time, but much more on how it could have been avoided from the start. And here of course FIFA is living in an intermediate situation, where they are moving into trying to apply global commitments that they have taken. There is still a long way to go for FIFA.

“They are not doing everything right, for sure, and one area which I would question is, among others, the way they communicate about what they are doing. FIFA is communicating about what action they have taken only once negative newspaper reports are out, whereas the information about their actions (in Russia) existed last year with the monitoring reports they already have.

“This is why we are calling on FIFA to improve their communication and accountability.”

For media enquiries and interview opportunities, please contact Marc Joly, Terre des Hommes +41 22 593 48 72 marc.joly@terredeshommes.org

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