FIFA's Deputy General Secretary Alasdair Bell
The FIFA's Deputy General Secretary Alasdair Bell, confirmed that the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar will be the first big sporting event that will leave a positive and sustainable effect on human rights.
Bell spoke during a hearing on "Sports governance and social rights: the protection of workers rights in Qatar", organized jointly by the Committee on Culture, Science, Education & Media and the Committee on Social Affairs, Health & Sustainable Development of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg. The session was moderated by Lord George Foulkes, rapporteur of the recent Football Governance report by the Council of Europe. Introductory remarks were made by Bjorn Berge, Deputy SG of the Council.
Bell told the hearing that there had been clear progress in improving human and labor rights in Qatar, a process in which FIFA has been very active, and this has been recognized by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC), among others. "This is a combined effort to improve the standards and the FIFA World Cup was also an important catalyst to change legislation positively in Qatar," he said.
For example, Qatar has started to dismantle the kafala, or sponsorship, system and has also introduced a non-discriminatory minimum wage, strengthened heat stress protections and set up worker committees.
"There has been real tangible progress in Qatar. We have worked hard with the Qatari authorities and the NGOs. The labor conditions in World Cup sites are setting the standards in Qatar. In 2020, something like 250.000 people were able to change jobs because of these reforms. Nearly 300.000 workers benefitted from the introduction of the minimum wage. We will look at ways to build on these reforms, to ensure they are enduring. A centre in Qatar where migrant workers can receive advice is being explored. So is the possibility to find redress for anyone who suffered injury. It is not the simplest thing to put into place." Bell explained: "We raised the profile of human rights in FIFA and that has had some significant spill over effect. This World Cup in Qatar will be the first big sporting event with a lasting positive effect in the area of human rights," he said.
The Council of Europe signed a Memorandum of understanding with FIFA in 2018 and the two organizations have worked very closely together on a number of important topics such as on child safeguarding, good governance, anti-match manipulation, safety and security at football matches.