The Head of the Children Win campaign has called on FIFA to leave “no stone unturned” when it comes to enforcing human rights commitments made by bidders for the 2026 World Cup.

Children Win is a campaign led by the international child rights organisation Terre des Hommes, and focuses on preserving and protecting the rights of children in and around Mega Sporting Events, such as the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup.

With the 2018 Russia World Cup less than a week away, Children Win has been unable to obtain publicly-available updated information on some of the commitments originally made in that country’s bid for this year’s tournament. Research is ongoing.

Therefore, with FIFA having this week evaluated the two bid books published by United 2026 – a joint bid by Canada, Mexico and the United States – and Morocco 2026, Children Win’s Marc Joly has called on FIFA to ensure that this time no details are overlooked again when implementing commitments made by bidders.

“FIFA has come a long way in a relatively short period of time when it comes to ensuring that human rights criteria are a key part of delivering a World Cup,” said Joly.

COMMITMENTS

“However recent research conducted on behalf of Terre des Hommes around the 2018 World Cup in Russia demonstrates that there is a long way to go between just saying the right thing and successfully implementing these commitments on the ground in host cities and countries.

“This process should leave no stone unturned; it is not a PR exercise for the countries involved.

“Furthermore, the lack of specific detail around child rights in the two bid books – for example around safeguarding – is a serious concern. Vague references to trafficking, discrimination and freedom of expression are simply not satisfactory and show a worrying lack of understanding of the complexity involved.

“This is not a tick-box exercise and, while of course youth development programmes related to Mega Sporting Events are to be welcomed, they should not, and cannot, paper over any strategic failings in this area.”

The United bid book goes into great detail on how the three countries would work together to fulfil the most extensive human rights requirements “ever contemplated for a Mega Sporting Event”, and rightly focuses on having systems in place to identify grievances and take remedial action over negative impacts brought about by the organisation of the tournament.

EVALUATION

However, with the 207 member nations of the FIFA Congress due to vote on who will host the 2026 World Cup on June 13, the Morocco bid has already been criticised for apparently glossing over a ban on homosexuality in the country. This omission was recognised in FIFA’s evaluation, which marked the United bid higher overall but stated both bids as having ‘medium risks’ around human rights.

In the build-up to the vote, which takes place in Moscow one day before the 2018 World Cup kicks off, there also remain questions marks over the scoring system for the technical evaluation of bids.

Joly explained: “The elements of the scoring system which have been published only cover the technical aspects of the bid, such as stadiums or commercial matters. Nothing detailed is mentioned by FIFA on how it intends to evaluate aspects such as the answer to the human rights requirement in both bids.

“Indeed, the published document only refers to a ‘bid compliance’ assessment  and to an ‘overall risk assessment’ done by FIFA in parallel, but with no precise description of the process or scoring scales. We would certainly ask for clarification, especially on the weighting given to human rights criteria in this process.

“If no significance is given to human rights within the process of awarding the 2026 World Cup, then we face the very real prospect of a technically ‘excellent’ bid not being held to account on the rights criteria which FIFA say they are now committed to upholding in their own statutes.

He added: “The truth is that sports governing bodies such as FIFA are only just embarking on this journey around human rights. It is very encouraging to see them saying and, initially at least, doing the right things – but it is crucial that they see this process through to completion, much in the same way as is happening now with regards to environmental sustainability.”

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