[New publication] Lessons learned on addressing human rights abuses in Qatar

Published 13 September 2023

FIFA World Cup at Al Thumama Stadium - Wikipedia - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license 

In a new article for the Netherlands International Law Review, Daniela Heerdt and Lucas Roorda examine the human rights responsibilities of businesses and sports bodies. Using the participation of the Netherlands in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar as a case study, they argue that understanding how to take part in ways that reduce harm and promote respect for human rights should be the focus for future events.

In their analysis, Heerdt and Roorda identify the range of actors involved in mega-sporting events like the World Cup or the Olympic Games. These actors include private businesses, such as sponsors, contractors, and commercial sports teams, and are essential for events of this magnitude. The authors highlight that such private businesses have human rights responsibilities to prevent or cease adverse human rights impacts in their own operations, provide remedies for victims, and use their leverage over business partners to prevent or mitigate human rights impacts when they are linked with adverse human rights impacts. In the case of the Netherlands, the authors note that, apart from non-binding commitments to the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), there is no mandatory human rights due diligence legislation in force.

The sports ecosystem

Source: Centre for Sport and Human Rights  

The article points out that, partly because of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, awareness of the human rights responsibilities of companies involved in sporting events and sports bodies such as FIFA and national authorities has increased. However, little action has been taken to address relevant human rights risks.

To boycott or not?
The political discussion surrounding the World Cup in Qatar revolved around potential boycotts of the event and whether to send government representatives. However, not taking part in the event would not have absolved the Netherlands of its human rights responsibilities. Instead, Heerdt and Roorda emphasise that the most direct way for nations to make an impact is to adopt specific human rights-related domestic law in the form of mandatory human rights due diligence legislation. This would mean that the focus lies on finding solutions for how participating states can ensure that businesses live up to their responsibilities.

Heerdt, D., Roorda, L. Lessons Learned in Qatar: The Role of the Netherlands and Its Businesses in Addressing Human Rights Abuses in Mega-Sporting Events. Neth Int Law Rev 70, 19–64 (2023).

Read the full article (open access).


Learn more
In our masterclass on human rights due diligence in sport (8-9 November) will guide you through the human rights due diligence process, and clarify questions around the scope of the assessment, which stakeholders to engage, and how to report on the measures taken while protecting confidentiality where needed. Each sport faces unique challenges, but the masterclass uses a systematic approach that can be universally applied to engage with the human rights due diligence process. Thereby, it will equip you with the tools to tailor the approach to your sport. Read more and register.





Dr Daniela Heerdt