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FIFA presidential candidates urged to commit to human rights and transparency in World Cup decision-making

A coalition of leading NGOs and trade unions has written to the four Fifa presidential candidates urging them to commit to addressing human rights, labour rights and anti-corruption issues in future World Cups, if successful in their bid for the presidency.


In a questionnaire from the Sport and Rights Alliance (SRA), the candidates - Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, Sepp Blatter, Luis Figo, Michael van Praag - are asked whether in the first 100 days of their presidency they will address corruption, labour issues and other human rights concerns around the Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 World Cups. The election of a new president takes place on 29 May in Zurich.


The questionnaire specifically asks the candidates if they will take measures to prevent human rights and labour abuses linked to construction for the Qatar 2022 World Cup. They are asked if they would use their position as president to exert pressure on the Qatari authorities to bring the country’s labour laws into line with international standards and reform the kafalasponsorship system, which effectively ties migrant workers to their employer and prevents them from leaving the country.


Fifa has come under significant fire in the last few years over human rights abuses linked to the World Cup. The runup to Brazil 2014 was marred by police violence against anti-World Cup protestors and forced evictions to make way for infrastructure for the event.


The Qatar 2022 World Cup has been linked to serious abuses of migrant workers’ rights, including deaths at work, non-payment of wages, harsh and dangerous working conditions, shocking standards of accommodation and the kafala system.


Meanwhile, Russia’s appalling record on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, environmental protection and freedom of expression, exposed during the Sochi Winter Olympics last year, remains a real concern for the 2018 World Cup.


Furthermore, the awarding of the World Cups 2018 and 2022 and other decisions have raised serious corruption allegations and further damaged FIFA’s reputation. The SRA’s questionnaire asks whether the candidates will continue with the much-needed FIFA reform process, including the implementation of term limits, independent directors, integrity checks and transparency regarding remuneration of officials and decisions of the Ethics Commission.


Eduard Nazarski, Director of Amnesty International Netherlands - a member of the SRA - said:


“Exploitation of migrant workers, police violence against protestors, government crackdowns on freedom of expression and corruption have become almost as synonymous with the World Cup as the actual football.


“The election of a new president gives Fifa a chance to turn over a new leaf, to say enough is enough and to use the power and influence of that position to push for positive change.


“Millions are closely monitoring the FIFA presidential elections. Many will be waiting to hear if the new president will be prepared to put the bad old days behind them and harness the power of football to ensure respect for human rights, transparency and sustainability. If they don’t, the World Cup will continue to leave widespread misery in its wake.”


The SRA is calling on the next FIFA president to urgently introduce measures to ensure the World Cup is always organised in a way that respects human rights, the environment and anti-corruption requirements at all stages of the process - from bidding, through to the development and delivery phase to final reporting.


The questionnaire is from SRA members Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Trade Union Confederation, Terre des Hommes and Transparency International Germany.

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