This November, the FIFA World Cup will be held in Qatar.
Ahead of the competition, the issue of human rights violations — particularly those against migrant workers — has been brought to the fore. In order to make the legacy of hosting the World Cup an esteemed one, FIFA and Qatar, the first Middle Eastern country to hold the event, are expected to work to make this right.
Progress towards improved working conditions
As Qatar ramps up infrastructural development in preparation for the World Cup, human rights abuses towards migrant workers have become a problem under the “kafala” sponsorship system, a contract labor system unique to the Middle East.
For many years, human rights organizations have spoken out against this system, and in the midst of this global scrutiny, the International Labour Organization (ILO) lodged a complaint that resulted in the adoption of laws to protect migrant workers.
ILO Deputy Director-General for Field Operations and Partnerships, Moussa Oumarou, expressed his desire that this be the start of a valuable legacy:
We want progress in labour reforms to be a positive image for Qatar beyond the World Cup.
Moving towards genuine reform
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has called on FIFA and Qatar to set up a remediation program for workers who have suffered human rights abuses.
To meet their proposed conditions, the program should be participatory — consulting a wide range of stakeholders, including workers, trade unions, and civil society — and guarantee non-repetition to prevent such abuses from happening again.
According to Amnesty’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard, fully addressing past human rights violations is the first step towards genuine reform:
Providing compensation to workers who gave so much to make the tournament happen, and taking steps to make sure such abuses never happen again, could represent a major turning point in FIFA’s commitment to respect human rights.
The attention garnered by these global events presents an opportunity to begin to mitigate social issues facing host countries and reexamine the role of governing bodies like FIFA. However, a noble legacy will only be forged once these actions result in a better future.
We must first face past problems head on and, using that experience as a foundation, explore what needs to be done moving forward while listening to the voices of many. This journey will continue well after the competition has ended.
Kaori Yamamoto (Author), Translation by Melody Poland
Photo by Rhett Lewis via Unsplash