The International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA), as the organizer of the World Cup events, has the responsibility to ensure fair and sustainable games. Alas, during the preparations for the World Cup, and the games themselves, violations of human rights continued to occur. The FIFA could have inaugurated a new era with a Social Responsibility Charter for major sporting events: Fair Games for All!

Human rights have regularly been violated in connection with football World Cups. As part of the preparations for WC events, people have been expelled and street merchants have lost their source of income. The human rights situation is also precarious for the Russian 2018 and Qatar 2022 Games. Migrant workers are being exploited regularly on the infrastructure and stadium construction sites.


Major construction sites in Qatar have had numerous fatalities and the “Kafala system”, depriving workers of their civil liberties, remains the rule. In Russia the applicable workers rights are being undermined for the sake of the WC. This was already observed in Brazil and South Africa. The principle behind the football WC can be characterized as “the people pay the price, FIFA takes the profit”.


Solidar Switzerland uses public relations, campaigns, research and discussions to convince FIFA to accept its social responsibility. Furthermore, Solidar Switzerland supports projects to aid migrant workers in Qatar. More recently, in February 2016, in connection with the FIFA presidential campaign, Solidar Switzerland authored a letter to the president which was signed online by roughly 5000 people. The letter was sent to the new president, Gianni Infantino, together with the Social Responsibility Charter, with 10000 signatures. This charter contains the following points:

  • Protection of human rights
  • Commitment to minimum working standards at the construction sites as well as for the street vendors (no sales restrictions, fair pay, respect of the basic conditions of the International Labour Organization such as prohibiting forced labour, racial discrimination and child labour as well as preserving the freedom of assembly and association
  • Absence of taxation exemption privileges for FIFA and their sponsors in the host country.
  • Absence of special FIFA-oriented laws such as outlawing strikes before the WC.
  • Definition of ecological criteria for the host country.


In spite of several improvements the ILO finds that urgent action is needed to improve the situation of migrant workers in Qatar. They represent 90% of the population and many endure very poor living conditions and forced labour due to the Kafala system. If the new Qatar labour law doesn't yield a significant improvement for the workers, the ILO will ask for an investigation next year to increase pressure on Qatar (and FIFA).

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