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16 March 2017

Trade Unions at the Table in FIFA

It has been said that, “if you are not at the table, you are probably on the menu”. BWI was at the table for the first meeting of the FIFA Independent Advisory Board, which was held on 13-14 March 2017 in Zurich, Switzerland.

BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson is one of the eight members of the Advisory Board. An initial reaction to the meeting was agreed by the advisory board and made available in a FIFA press release. The Advisory Board will make a more complete report in a few weeks. That report will also be public.

Yuson fully supports the Advisory Board statement, adding, “The Advisory Board is experienced and serious. I was impressed with their understanding of human rights issues, of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and of the independent Recommendations to FIFA of Professor Ruggie.

“As indicated in the statement, we received good cooperation from the FIFA Secretariat. The Advisory Board has an ambitious agenda and a lot of work in front of it, but this was a very good beginning. We all understand that addressing human rights issues related to the upcoming World Cup games is urgent. BWI brings to the Advisory Board a trade union point of view, but also our experience on the ground in Qatar, Russia, and elsewhere”.

The FIFA Human Rights Advisory Board released the following initial statement this week:

We welcomed our first day and a half of substantive discussions with the FIFA Administration, including the Secretary-General, about FIFA’s human rights responsibilities. It was an important opportunity to establish a general understanding of FIFA’s human rights efforts to date, and it was a forthright and frank discussion.

We reviewed a range of key issues that FIFA is taking action on, following from the 2016 independent report by John Ruggie on FIFA and human rights. We discussed the organization’s draft human rights policy and its ongoing consultations on this document. We also discussed the most pressing human rights issues in relation to the upcoming FIFA World Cups in Russia and Qatar, and the important progress being made in particular through the joint inspections being undertaken with Building and Woodworkers’ International in both countries. We also had detailed discussions about the work being done to implement FIFA’s anti-discrimination commitments, the process to include human rights in the 2026 bidding documents, the work of the new women’s football division, FIFA’s initial thinking on how to implement effective grievance mechanisms, and the work of the Israel-Palestine Monitoring Committee established by FIFA.

There were a number of examples of positive action that FIFA is taking, and we are encouraged by much of what we have heard. We recognize and appreciate the openness of FIFA to having these discussions with us. This will be essential to address the many critical issues that need further attention and effort. We will prioritize our ongoing work based on the most important human rights challenges we believe FIFA is facing.

We plan to take a very engaged approach in our work with FIFA and to develop practical advice and recommendations. We will shortly issue a more detailed set of operating principles about our approach as the Human Rights Advisory Board.

We will liaise closely with the new FIFA Governance Committee that is responsible for providing strategic advice on human rights to FIFA’s Council. We look forward to interaction with all relevant divisions of FIFA about their own roles in implementing FIFA’s human rights commitments. We note that the Advisory Board is not a replacement for broader stakeholder engagement by FIFA, nor a formal channel for resolution of grievances. We welcome active engagement with all stakeholders whose views can help inform our work.

We aim to publish our report on our initial meeting within the next six weeks.