FIFA 2022- Limits of policy action

by | Jul 16, 2023

FIFA has a global presence and contributes to international relations through its governance actions. It is a significant player in international relations because of its economic importance, the global scope of the sport it represents, the fervour that football inspires, and its system of governance, which involves federations and confederations and depends on the involvement of countries. The head of states legitimise themselves by supporting their national teams in FIFA.

However, Qatar has turned out to be a controversial destination for the FIFA World Cup 2022. The country has been widely criticised for its record of human rights abuses and corruption scandals. FIFA has previously been compelled to go through a reformation process in 2016 and include human rights provisions to both their laws and the bidding process.

When Qatar was chosen to host the tournament in 2010, it lacked several of the stadiums, hotels, and roads necessary. The nation relied on its sizable population of migrant labourers, who make up 90% or more of its labour force, to construct them. According to reports, many migrant workers had to live and work under hazardous and exploitative conditions. According to a 2021 investigation by the Guardian, more than 6,500 migrant workers from five South Asian nations have died in Qatar since 2010. However, the article inaccurately stated that the residents of those five nations only perform manual labour on World Cup infrastructure, and it has since been slightly changed after being exposed for its sensationalism. Migrants also work in Qatar as nurses, engineers, teachers, and many other professions. The number of deaths from the same age categories and professions within those five nations was not compared in the report.

Reading about all of this, I wonder: what does it have to take to hold a country accountable to its human rights abuses? How does one define human rights abuses and to what extent can countries universally adapt to it? Qatar has been accused of harbouring migrant workers for ‘3D’ dirty, dangerous and difficult jobs. Every GCC state also has a form of the “kafala” sponsorship system, which links the employees’ legal status to remain in the region to their contracts. This means that if someone quits their work without their employer’s consent, they risk the possibility of going to jail or being deported. Often, low paid labourers are also accommodated in labour camps with poor hygiene and small rooms. International reporting on such issues has put the citizens around the world in a position to make a moral decision around contributing indirectly to Qatar’s human rights abuses. When I say indirect contribution, I refer to the FIFA world cup being hosted by Qatar with the cooperation of Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. Some Football fans decided to boycott FIFA 2022 as a way to take a stand for LGBTQ and migrant worker rights in Qatar, while some news channels like BBC decided not to air the FIFA World Cup opening ceremony.

Some however have pointed out an issue with double standards: Danish supporters are silent about Denmark’s matches against Israel, in Tel Aviv, while they demonstrate against human rights abuses in Qatar. Israel has lately made news after the International Criminal Court opened an inquiry into the nation’s war crimes. Israel actively supports illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. Israel’s COVID-19 vaccine apartheid was also a hot topic in international media: even though Israel was a global leader in immunisation of its population, the state excluded Palestinians from their vaccination efforts, despite the occupied West Bank falling under Israeli jurisdiction under international law.

Qatar is an Islamic state and follows Sharia Law that has different rules to democratic states focused on individual rights. But to what extent should the government regulate religious policies that affect individuals and their beliefs? Qatar has a strong Arab culture and Islamic principles are evident in its society. To criticise Qatari laws one must understand Sharia – intersection of Islam and the law. Nevertheless, while we must respect different customs, human rights are international and unnegotiable and unalienable to all. Considering this, it is important that the global community continues to raise the issue of abuses faced by migrant workers in Qatar. Safety and health standards should be improved and families of the deceased migrant workers deserve justice and compensation.

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