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FIFA issues joint World Cup 2022 sustainability strategy with host Qatar

On 21 January, FIFA and hosts Qatar issued a joint FIFA World Cup 2022 sustainability strategy, outlining commitments around five key pillars, including on human capital and workers' rights, inclusivity and environmental protection.

In preparation for the strategy, consultations were carried out with 100 government, civil society and private-sector stakeholders. The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre was among the NGOs consulted.

In its human pillar, FIFA outlined several objectives aimed at promoting the rights of migrant workers. The strongest commitments we made in relation to workers directly engaged in the construction or provision of services for FIFA World Cup sites, encompassing guarantees of decent working and living conditions and access to remedy. Commitments for workers "engaged through other construction projects and supply chain relationships directly linked to the FIFA World Cup 2022" including those employed in transport and hospitality were more limited in scope to the "promotion" of their rights.

The strategy highlighted reforms made by Qatar to improve the protection climate for migrant workers mainly in the framework of the technical cooperation agreement between Qatar and the ILO, but acknowledged that gaps persisted including in freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Under the social pillar, the organizers made commitments to respect and protect media representatives and human rights advocates, who could use FIFA's complaints mechanism if they perceive that their rights have been violated while performing functions in relation to FIFA's activities. The strategy also noted that the Qatari Constitution upholds freedom of speech and press. These commitments to uphold freedom of expression might be undermined by a recent law passed by the Qatari authorities severely curbing freedom of expression and imposing prison-sentences of up to five years for publishing false information. No reference was made to upholding digital rights and ensuring cyber-security.

Other objectives under the social pillar pertain to ensuring inclusivity and accessibility for all communities in Qatar and around the world. A number of commendable initiatives are underway to ensure that people living with disabilities or with limited mobility would be able to access World Cup sites, public transportation and services around the country.  Commitments under the social pillar also included an initiative to hold human rights trainings for security providers including on anti-discrimination, the use of force and the rights of media workers and human rights advocates.

While mention was made of commitments to combat discrimination on all grounds including gender and race, no concrete details were provided on steps to be taken to operationalize these pledges to address country-specific risks including for groups in situations of vulnerability such as women and girls, racial minorities, and the LGBT+ community beyond preparing anti-discrimination guidance for "participants, attendees and local communities" and implementing and carrying out FIFA’s standard measures and initiatives related to diversity and anti-discrimination  . No mention was made of steps to be taken to counter and address sexual harassment against women attendees, employees and media workers.