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Breakthrough or much ado about nothing?

14th August 2019

Author - Florian Kirschner

Breakthrough or much ado about nothing? FIFA’s new bidding process in the light of best practice examples of human rights assessments under UNGP Framework

Abstract

Over the years, ‘Mega-Sporting Events’ (MSE) increasingly have been facing public indignation caused by MSE-linked human rights violations in hosting countries and accusations of corruption in the bidding processes. These negative implications have affected the legitimacy and reputation of MSE and led, besides other Sports Governing Bodies, the Fédération de Football Association (FIFA) to integrate human rights into their statues and internal policies and to adopt new, human rights-sensitive, Bidding Regulations. This paper evaluates whether the required human rights impact assessment (HRIA), required under the new Bidding Regulations, can be a ‘game changer’ for the protection of human rights in the context of MSE. Therefore, the article will first identify the new requirements as result of the recent MSE and human rights discourse and embed FIFA’s approach in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) Framework. The paper will then identify standards and best practice examples for HRIA under the UNGP Framework, which serve as benchmarks for the evaluation of the approach taken by FIFA and its implementation by the submitted Bid Books. While parts of the framework for the HRIA established by FIFA are quite progressive, other parts do not qualify for ‘playing in the premier league’. Areas of concern are the meaningful engagement of stakeholders, monitoring as well as aspects of transparency. Therefore, the paper suggests to mandate a multi-stakeholder entity to develop the human rights strategy, to conduct the HRIA and to monitor the human rights performance, as well as to implement of a fixed human rights evaluation matrix.