Human Rights and Mega-Sporting Events - Wilton Park

12 January 2016

By Lucy Amis, Human Rights and Sport Specialist, Unicef UK; Reseach Fellow, IHRB

Respecting the human rights of all concerned – workers, athletes, volunteers, fans, and local communities – requires the same levels of vigilance, international co-ordination, and shared effort as the execution of the MSE itself.

Organised by IHRB, Wilton Park and the Government of Switzerland, the Wilton Park conference on Human Rights and Mega-Sporting Events (MSEs) brought together international experts with a collective global reach to more than 100 sport federations, 155 national business federations, 180 million workers and 10,000 athletes. 

About the Conference

Discussion focused on the human rights challenges that continue to face global sport as well as identified emerging examples of good practice and long-term solutions aimed at ensuring the responsible planning and delivery of such events.

Participants spanned UN agencies, sports governing bodies, governments, local organising committees, sponsors, the wider business community, trade union confederations, civil society, academia and other experts with direct experience in the delivery and accountability of a major sports event. 

The purpose of this meeting was to build consensus on the need for an independent centre for learning on responsibility in sporting events and methods of accountability in their delivery.  Ensuring integration of human rights considerations into MSEs and greater accountability, as well as ongoing engagement with rights-holders will be central.

Summary Conclusions from the Conference

There seemed to be a consensus over the two days that, whilst better information exchange between sporting traditions, venues and other stakeholders would serve a valuable purpose, it would not be sufficient on its own to rebuild trust in the eyes of society. Accountability is also essential. The question is what different pre-emptive (due diligence-based) and remedial (grievance- or mediation-based) approaches might look like in practice. 

There was recognition that the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work provided the standards required for governments and businesses alike. The question again was how these might be applied concretely in practice.

Many of those attending expressed an interest in working together during 2016 to show what this additional element might look like. One of the key challenges for those involved will be to balance the urgency of the moment, expressed in particular from civil society, trade union and some sponsors, with the need to take concrete steps that build confidence and trust.

IHRB offered to continue to play the role of ‘midwife’ during 2016 and to reconvene all actors in one year’s time when the evidence of different pilots could be shared and assessed. A steering group will be established at the start of 2016 to guide the process.

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