News 3rd December 2019

FIFA argues China will respect human rights at Club World Cup

FIFA argues that China has committed to respecting human rights during the 2021 Club World Cup (CWC), after Human Rights Watch (HRW) discovered that no bidding process or human rights risk assessment had been carried out in relation to the tournament. China was appointed as host at the end of October, and the tournament is scheduled for June and July 2021.

In a 29 October letter (PDF below) to FIFA, HRW asks if FIFA conducted a bidding process for the 2021 CWC; whether a human rights risk assessment was carried out, as well as four other related questions. In its reply, FIFA admitted that due to the short space of time available it had proposed China as host, as it said it would do when appointing Qatar as host of the 2020 and 2021 editions of the tournament. Whilst stating that it remained committed to upholding human rights in relation to the bidding for tournaments and outlining that China had committed to upholding human rights in connection to the tournament, it didn’t provide evidence that a human rights risk assessment had been carried out.

‘The FIFA Administration held an informal evaluation process in discussions with a number of potential host member associations before proposing the Chinese Football Association to the FIFA Council at its meeting in Shanghai’, read a 7 November FIFA response (PDF below). ‘In this respect, please be assured of FIFA’s ongoing commitment to upholding human rights with the integration of far-reaching human rights requirements in the bidding and hosting of FIFA tournaments and as has been the case since November 2017. These requirements extend to the host member association and include guarantees and commitments by the host country authorities to respect human rights in their activities associated with the tournament in accordance with internationally recognised human rights standards and FIFA’s own Human Rights Policy.’

“It’s not the mission of FIFA to solve he problems of the world”, said Gianni Infantino, FIFA’s President, at a press conference following FIFA’s Shanghai Council meeting, where China was announced as 2021 CWC hosts, reported The Independent. “We have a social responsibility due to the magnitude and the power that football brings with it. But we don’t do that by attacking, criticising anyone.” FIFA’s reply to HRW said that it remained committed to using football as a ‘catalyst for change’.

Detail from FIFA’s Human Rights Policy…

FIFA’s Human Rights Policy outlines ‘FIFA’s statutory human rights commitment’ and outlines FIFA’s approach to its implementation ‘in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights’.  Article 15(b) of the Guiding Principles requires businesses such as FIFA to conduct a human rights due diligence process to ‘identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address their impacts on human rights’. It would appear that this has not been done for the China 2021 CWC.

Under its Statutes and its rules on the Bidding Process for the FIFA World Cup, FIFA is required to hold a bidding process. However, no such rules can be found for the Club World Cup or other FIFA tournaments.

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