The move by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to incorporate human rights principles in its Host City Contract could help prevent major abuses by future Olympic hosts, says the Sport and Rights Alliance (SRA). The revised Host City Contract, developed with recommendations from a coalition of leading rights, transparency, and athletes’ organizations, was finalized in January 2017 and will first apply to the 2024 Summer Olympics.
For the first time, the IOC has included explicit reference to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), which outline the human rights responsibilities of businesses, as well as references to anti-corruption standards. The Guiding Principles explain how commercial enterprises should assess human rights risks, take effective steps to avoid human rights problems, and ensure a remedy for abuses that occur in spite of those efforts.
“The new reference to the human rights guiding principles and anti-corruption standard certainly constitutes a groundbreaking step by the IOC in the right direction,” said Marc Joly, Head of the Children Win campaign at Terre des Hommes. “However, the tougher part starts now: how will this change on paper be translated by the IOC and the Host City into meaningful and concrete changes on the ground ? The SRA will take a constructive but close look at this next development.”
The 2024 Olympics will be hosted by either Paris or Los Angeles, following Budapest’s withdrawal. The IOC will announce the winning bid at a vote in Lima, Peru, in September 2017, and there has been speculation that the other city will be awarded the 2028 Games at the same time.
The IOC’s revised Host City Contract integrates a number of recommendations made by the SRA, a coalition of leading human rights organizations, sports groups, and trade unions, including UNI World Athletes, FIFPro, the world football players’ union, Football Supporters Europe, Human Rights Watch, the International Trade Union Confederation, UNI Global Union, Terre des Hommes, Transparency International Germany, Amnesty International Netherlands, and Amnesty International United Kingdom. The SRA’s mission is to ensure that sports bodies and mega-sporting events respect human rights, the environment, and anti-corruption requirements at all stages of the process.
“Time after time, Olympic hosts have gotten away with abusing workers building stadiums, and with crushing critics and media who try to report about abuses,” said Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch. “The right to host the Olympics needs to come with the responsibility not to abuse basic human rights.”
The revised contract requires host cities to “protect and respect human rights and ensure any violation of human rights is remedied in a manner consistent with international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and in a manner consistent with all internationally-recognized human rights standards and principles, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, applicable in the Host Country”.
The amendments mark the latest step in a long campaign by the SRA, which in February 2015 called for “rights-respecting Olympic bids” ahead of an IOC Executive Committee meeting in Rio de Janeiro to discuss the implementation of its Olympic Agenda 2020. In its letter to IOC President Thomas Bach, the SRA recommended that future Host City Contracts comply with fundamental standards for labor rights, and include “concrete and measurable human rights impact indicators, in particular of the right to freedom of expression and assembly, the right to housing, and the protection of human rights defenders.”
An Essential Step
The Alliance called these principles an essential step, following the widespread abuses linked to past Olympics such as Rio 2016, Beijing 2008, and the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, but cautioned that words on paper would not change practice; that implementation and monitoring are essential.
More than 22,000 families were evicted during preparations for the 2016 Rio Olympics and there was significant increase in the run-up to the games in the removal of street children and police violence and brutality. In 2008, the Beijing Games were a catalyst for human rights abuses including massive forced evictions; a surge in the arrest, detention, and harassment of critics of the government; repeated violations of media freedom; and increased political repression. The 2014 Sochi Games were marred by forced evictions, abuses against migrant workers, media censorship, a harsh crackdown on nongovernmental groups in Russia and discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. The 2015 European Games in Baku were also held against a backdrop of severe repression in the host country, Azerbaijan.
“If implemented, the revised Host City Contract will help ensure that Olympic hosts respect ‘human dignity’ as required by the Olympic Charter,” said Brendan Schwab, head of UNI World Athletes. “This should have a ripple effect across all mega-sporting events such as the World Cup, and wherever abuses tied to sport still occur.”
Read our report of Child Rights violations around the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Key provisions of the revised Olympic Host City Contract include:
13. Respect of the Olympic Charter and promotion of Olympism
13.1. The Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG undertake to abide by the provisions of the Olympic Charter
and the IOC Code of Ethics and agree to conduct their activities related to the organisation of the Games in a manner which promotes and enhances the fundamental principles and values of Olympism, as well as the development of the Olympic Movement.
13.2. Pursuant to their obligations under §13.1, the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG shall, in their activities related to the organisation of the Games:
a. prohibit any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status;
b. protect and respect human rights and ensure any violation of human rights is remedied in a manner consistent with international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and in a manner consistent with all internationally-recognised human rights standards and principles, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, applicable in the Host Country; and
c. refrain from any act involving fraud or corruption, in a manner consistent with any international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and all internationally-recognised anti-corruption standards applicable in the Host Country, including by establishing and maintaining effective reporting and compliance.
13.3. The IOC, through its Coordination Commission referred to in §27, shall establish a reporting mechanism to address the obligations referred to in §13.1 and §13.2 in connection with the activities of the Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG related to the organisation of the Games.
15. Sustainability and Olympic legacy
15.1. The Host City, the Host NOC and the OCOG undertake to carry out all activities foreseen under the HCC in a manner which embraces sustainable development and contributes to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.