Canadian Mining Journal


FIFA’s human rights obligations provides a framework for change

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, better known as FIFA, recently engaged noted human rights expert John Ruggie to assess how the organization can apply the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) to advance its commitment to respecting human rights. The report was prepared in light of allegations of labour and migrant worker abuse associated with the forthcoming World Cup, which has been the subject of criticism by human rights organizations like Amnesty International.

While not mining related, the report provides valuable guidance that businesses in any sector can harness in order to identify and address human rights obligations in every aspect of their operations. Importantly, the UNGP are endorsed by the Government of Canada in the CSR Strategy for the Extractive Sector, as a standard expected of Canadian miners operating abroad.

The report offers six key findings that can serve as a blueprint for any organization seeking to develop and implement a human rights strategy in accordance with the UNGP:

1            Adopt a clear and coherent human rights policy The report recommends that FIFA adopt a human rights policy that applies both internally, to FIFA’s leadership and staff, and externally to its relations with business partners and other relevant parties. It is recommended that this human rights policy be made publically available, and that FIFA revise its governing documents to ensure consistency across the organization.

2            Embed respect for human rights The recommendations under this heading focus on configuring FIFA’s operations so that respect for human rights is reflected both in policy and in practice. The report suggests making a member of FIFA’s top management team accountable for human rights and tasking a department with responsibility for the dayto- day operations relating to FIFA’s human rights commitment.

Further, the report recommends that those tasked with the responsibility for human rights be provided with the training, capacity and resources necessary to execute their mandates.

3            Identify and evaluate human rights risks With respect to human rights risks, the report’s recommendations emphasize the importance of focusing not only on the risks to the business enterprise itself, but also on the business’ risks to external stakeholders. In FIFA’s case, the report focuses on the importance of stakeholder engagement and suggests including human rights criteria in the tournament bidding process in order to better identify and evaluate risks.

4            Address human rights risks The report provides numerous recommendations on how to address human rights risks once they have been identified. Based on the UNGPs, leverage is a business enterprise’s primary tool for addressing these risks. For example, the report recommends that FIFA use its leverage in its supply chain relationships to implement provisions in its contracts that specifically address human rights. In severe cases, when an organization is unable to successfully use its leverage to reduce human rights impacts, then the organization should consider suspending or terminating the business relationship.

In the context of FIFA’s operations, it is recommended that FIFA impose human rights requirements as early as possible in its business relationships, including in bidding documents and in its supply chain. The report identifies the Men’s World Cup tournament as being the event where FIFA has the most leverage and consequently the event where it bears the greatest burden to address its human rights risks.

5            Track and report implementation FIFA is tasked with improving its public reporting and better monitoring the organization and its supply chains in order to ensure that human rights requirements are being implemented and enforced. The UNGPs have an associated Reporting Framework, which the report recommends using as a foundation when creating reporting requirements at an organizational level.

6            Enable access to remedy The remaining recommendations in the report focus on the need to provide an adequate remedy where FIFA has caused or contributed to negative human rights impacts. The report notes that while states have the duty to provide access to judicial remedies, business enterprises like FIFA are in a good position to provide non-judicial remedies that complement those judicial channels.

Michael Torance and Carole Gilbert are lawyers with Norton Rose Fulbright, Toronto.

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