How far does sport lag when it comes to human rights

“Sports are often seen as a social good,” says Marie Harvey, referring to the public’s support for it. “But in order to maintain this license, the sport has to take responsibility.”

The former US soccer goalkeeper summed up what experts wrote to the Bundestag Commission on Human Rights at a public hearing on the topic of sport on Wednesday in Berlin: to put pressure on federations and regulators to implement UN directives. Business principles and human rights to control states.

“Sport as an industry is a decade or more behind,” says Harvey, the current CEO of the Geneva-based Center for Sport and Human Rights, which represents more than sixty organizations.

“Bad management of sports associations”

Wenzel Michalski, director of Human Rights Watch in Germany, stressed that the good news is that there is no need for new laws and regulations because UN guidelines have been in place for a long time. The problem: “mismanagement by the sports federations”. He saw that the pressure was working in light of the improvement of the conditions of workers who were building stadiums for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar and made a recommendation.

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The need to enforce human rights is not limited to Qatar, China and Russia. Athletes in Germany are demanding the same in Germany. “From a human rights perspective, athletes are a risky group,” Maximilian Klein says on behalf of the organization.

This means interpersonal violence and abuse, restriction of workers’ rights, interference with freedom of expression, for example through Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, and restrictions on self-marketing of one’s image, for example through Rule 40.

Klein also complained about the “questioned independence and adequacy of human rights in the context of international sports arbitration by the Court of Arbitration for Sport”. In Germany, a coherent comprehensive strategy of the unions and the state is essential.

Targeting China and Qatar

Athletes in Germany are also calling for the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles, which they call a duty to care for human rights. The state must link its financing to its achievement. Klein proposed expanding the government’s planned Safe Sports Centre, which is his and German Athletes’ initiative, into an independent, long-term national integrity agency.

Friedhelm Julius Bucher, president of the German Disabled Sports Federation (DBS) and the highest-ranking representative for organized sport, said at the hearing that major sporting events do not belong to China nor Qatar. Experts from the German Olympic Sports Federation and the German Football Association were not invited.

At the same time, the Bundestag Sports Committee was working on a reform of high-level sports financing, which Bucher noted with astonishment. Its members certainly belong to the target group of this hearing. Like the public, they can, and probably should, watch the commission’s hearing 25 hours later on Thursday afternoon on Parliamentary TV.

Major events as opportunity

Bucher said the Olympics and Paralympics have already violated human rights by taking people to events. The recommendations of the International Olympic Committee and FIFA on a human rights strategy are important steps that must prove themselves in practice and must be implemented at all levels.

He said that the expertise of DBS lies in sports, which is why it is necessary to obtain external and reliable assessments from state institutions, human rights experts and relevant organizations. On the other hand, major sporting events are an opportunity to introduce sporting values ​​into the mainstream of society.

The Center for Human Rights and Sports Association, represented by its president, Jonas Burgheim, criticizes the lack of commitment to human rights in federal sports policy. It is not possible to define a clear and coherent approach. Burgheim advocates integrating human rights into sports politics.

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