The Speaker
Wednesday, 29 May 2024 – 22:09

Sports publicise human rights abuses

The World Cup of 2022 held in Qatar is a perfect demonstration to link the world of sports and the minefield that is the global governance community. Global governance refers to the systems and processes by which international relations and global issues are managed and decisions are made. It involves the actions and interactions of a wide range of actors, including international organisations, governments, non-governmental organisations, businesses, and civil society groups. Global governance takes place at a variety of levels, from international institutions such as the United Nations to regional organisations, to informal networks and partnerships. It encompasses a wide range of issues, including peace and security, economic development, human rights, environmental protection, and health and pandemics. Global governance can be challenging, as it involves managing the interests and actions of a diverse and often competing set of actors, and it can be difficult to achieve consensus and cooperation on complex global issues. However, it is important for addressing the many challenges and opportunities that transcend national borders and require collective action such as human rights abuses.

In the build-up to the 2022 World Cup, it was fascinating to see the interconnection between a social and cultural event, the World Cup, and the political global governance aims for the world, particularly regarding human rights. Human rights abuses in Qatar have been a source of concern for many years, with a range of issues impacting the country’s migrant worker, women, and LGBT populations.

Building on an earlier article, one major issue is the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar, who make up the majority of the country’s population. Many of these workers are employed in the construction and domestic sectors, where they often face poor working conditions, including low wages, long working hours, and lack of access to healthcare. There have also been reports of abuse and exploitation of migrant workers by their employers.

Women in Qatar face discrimination in areas such as employment, education, and inheritance. They also face restrictions on their freedom of movement, as they need the permission of a male guardian to travel, marry, or enrol in higher education.

Qatar has strict laws that prohibit criticism of the government or the royal family, and individuals who express dissenting views or engage in activism can face detention, imprisonment, and other forms of persecution. This has led to a lack of freedom of expression in the country.

LGBT individuals in Qatar face significant discrimination, as same-sex relationships are criminalised and there is widespread societal prejudice against this community.

Qatar has taken some steps to address these human rights issues, such as introducing labour reforms and establishing a human rights commission. However, many challenges remain, and there is ongoing criticism of the country’s human rights record by international organisations and human rights groups. The 2022 World Cup has only shone a light further on these significant issues. Unfortunately, however, these issues have failed to be tackled by the global political community in the past.

Political global governance has failed in the last decades to act on the issue of human rights, not just in Qatar, but around the world. One major factor is the lack of a central authority or governing body with the power to enforce decisions and ensure compliance. This can make it difficult to hold governments and other actors accountable for human rights abuses, as there is no mechanism to impose consequences for non-compliance. Although the United Nation has ten different organisations focused on human rights, the most prominent being the U.N. Human Rights Council, consensus and action is rarely achieved. The Human Rights Council attempts to succeed where other global governance organisations fail, to be representative. It’s members are elected geographically on three-year terms, 47 countries from all corners of the globe. On paper, this sounds great. In reality, the Human Rights Council ends up with a body that is on the whole unwilling to adopt a strong stance on human rights issues. Many members as of current are not democracies, are not representative and few have abysmal human rights records already, such as China, Russia, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia. It would be unfair to claim the Human Rights Council is wholly unsuccessful. It manages to recognise human rights abuses and publicises this to some extent at its conferences, but it falls at the most important hurdle – tackling the issue. A proactive agenda and action plans are needed to build upon the recognition and shame element if we are to create a world with equal recognition of the sanctity of intrinsic human rights.

In addition, political global governance can be hindered by political and economic interests that take precedence over human rights. The world is run by finance, and institutions such as the IMF have continued to loan money through structural adjustment programmes to countries that have poor human rights records. A speech at the 2020 Political Economy of International Organizations conference by Christopher Dinkel and Stephen C. Nelson draws comparisons between IMF funding to countries such as Sri Lanka and Ecuador, and violence, military oppression and further human rights abuses. With financial issues, distracted funding and ongoing political crises, human rights appears to be on the back burner for many governments which continue to prioritise economic and strategic interests over human rights, leading to a lack of action on abuses.

For Qatar, where political global governance has failed to achieve anything in the last four decades at least, the medium of sport stands a much greater chance. The World Cup may be over, but it brought about the greatest information campaign against human rights abuses ever seen on Qatar. Global political institutions have failed to achieve anything, yet the media, the commentary and football itself drew attention to the backdrop of the World Cup and the issues lurking behind the façade. It is now time for global political institutions to act on the stage the medium of football has created attention to the issue it has brought to the world. All eyes are on organisations such as the U.N. to see how far it can utilise the advantage football has created to recognise, shame and tackle human rights abuses.

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