Only time will tell if the promised changes in FIFA are for real, says the Head of Terre des Hommes’ Children Win campaign, Marc Joly.
Joly was speaking after comments made by FIFA’s Head of Sustainability and Diversity, Federico Addiechi, at a panel discussion in Zurich organized by Terre des Hommes and another civil society group, Solidar.
At the event, Addiechi described how FIFA has incorporated the United Nations’ Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights into its statutes, and has already implemented 13 of 25 recommendations made by Harvard Professor John Ruggie in his independent report into FIFA and human rights, published in April 2016.
This is part of a new strategy ‘FIFA 2.0: A Vision for the Future’, published last year, which sets out the vision of new President Gianni Infantino. It is aimed at repairing the tarnished image of world football’s governing body, and protecting its integrity in the future, following a series of scandals under his predecessor Sepp Blatter.
In fact, Addiechi claimed it is not FIFA’s reputation which is at stake, but its global responsibility.
He told the public audience of around 80 people: “FIFA does not do this work in order to bring its reputation to a higher place. We do it because it is our responsibility. It’s the responsibility of every organization around the world to care about human rights.”
CONCRETE MEASURES & IMPACT ON THE GROUND
Addiechi also spoke at length about the processes and systems which have now been put in place; for example, checks and monitoring on the working and living conditions of workers at construction sites for the Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 World Cups.
In response, Joly said: “The steps and processes in FIFA outlined by its Head of Sustainability can certainly qualify as heading in the right direction.
“However in some aspects, we are still missing the concrete effects and decisions of such changes. Only when we will see these meaningful changes on the ground, in the lives of people affected by the organisation of a World Cup, will it be possible to say that changes in FIFA passed the reality test.”
BUILDING A NEW FIFA
Addiechi, who was joined on the panel by representatives from Swiss government and academia, was adamant that significant and “pioneering” steps have been taken by FIFA – whether or not that is immediately apparent to the wider world.
He explained: “Our intention is not primarily about regaining the trust of those who are disappointed about FIFA. I can tell you that within our organization, and within the ‘new’ FIFA, there’s a lot of people – including ourselves, the staff – who are extremely disappointed about what has happened in the past couple of years, before this new start.
“It’s a shame, but we cannot go back. So what we have to do, with some of the decisions from the past, is work on them and improve the way we handle our events and our activities at FIFA.”
The full extent of FIFA’s change in direction will only become apparent in the years to come, he said, as the life-cycle of the World Cup finals is “very long“ – up to 12 years in the case of Qatar 2022.
He claimed that in future, human rights criteria will be a part of the bidding process “from day one”, compared to the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar in 2010, one year before the UN’s Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights were published.
Furthermore, Addiechi welcomed the pressure and demands on FIFA from civil society organisations such as Terre des Hommes, which he said have helped world football’s governing body to shape their policy on a “yearly basis”.
He reported that a policy statement on FIFA and human rights – developed in co-ordination with civil society organisations and validated by a human rights advisory board – will be published soon. Ignacio Packer, General Secretary of Terre des Hommes, is a member of the advisory board, specifically set up in response to one of Ruggie’s recommendations.
FIFA ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE
Joly welcomed Addiechi’s comments but called on the whole of FIFA to embrace the apparent change in culture.
“It is insufficient if only the department on sustainability and diversity is driving the change in reaction to outside pressure,“ he said. “The commitment for substantial change needs to be embedded in an organization’s daily work and ‘culture’ and become like its DNA.
“As a consequence, one cannot separate the issue of human rights from questions around business model of the World Cup or transparency on internal processes.”
In this context, while acknowledging the efforts undertaken by FIFA on the human rights issue, the interventions of the other panelists, as well as from the organisers of the event, hinted at the necessity for the intentions of FIFA to be followed by specific deeds. Only time will tell if this will happen.
Joly said: “To restore the confidence in FIFA, it is important these significant modifications, both in the institutional structure and operational processes, are done in a transparent and accountable way.”