Progress on Embedding Human Rights within Commonwealth Sports Policy
03 May 2018
By David Rutherford, Chief Commissioner, New Zealand Human Rights Commission
Last month in Queensland, Australia, the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games delivered the first multi-sport event to offer an equal number of medals for both men and women, and featured the largest integrated sports programme in Commonwealth Games history. The Gold Coast Games also positioned reconciliation and respect for Australia’s indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as central to the event.
Together with David Grevemberg, Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), I have had the pleasure of Co-Chairing a Task Force on Sports Governing Bodies as part of the IHRB-convened Mega-Sporting Events Platform for Human Rights. As well as celebrating the great work of the CGF in Gold Coast, the Games coincided with some significant progress on embedding human rights within Commonwealth sports policy, and the launch of our guide on Championing Human Rights in the Governance of Sports Bodies.
The Games coincided with some significant progress on embedding human rights within Commonwealth sports policy.
Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting
Ahead of the Games in Gold Coast, the 9th Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting (9CSMM), chaired and hosted by the Government of Australia, saw delegations from 45 Commonwealth nations and territories meet under the theme ‘strengthening policy coherence to maximise the benefits of investing in sport’.
This provided an opportunity to speak directly to Ministers on the recommendations of the Commonwealth Advisory Board on Sport (CABOS) and to the new Commonwealth Secretariat publication, States Obligations Under International Human Rights Conventions; The Implications for Government Sport Policy. This publication examines how human rights can be protected in sport and through sport. It examines areas in which sport can advance the 2030 development agenda and sets out in detail the status of ratification of human rights treaties by Commonwealth States. It tabulates the human rights obligations that are relevant to realisation of the SDGs identified by the Commonwealth as relevant to sport, or where sport can assist realisation.
The primary objective of 9CSMM was to agree on joint strategies and collective actions to strengthen policy coherence.
Ministers reiterated the valuable contribution sport can make to national development priorities, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They emphasised that a well governed and inclusive sport environment, with strong integrity measures, and human rights protections, is essential to maximise this positive impact.
The primary objective of 9CSMM was to agree on joint strategies and collective actions to strengthen policy coherence. Three priority areas for action were agreed on, each drawn from CABOS key recommendations:
- Mapping the sports integrity environment in the Commonwealth to quantify the diversity of challenges, vulnerabilities and capacity to respond across member countries and enable the development of tools to assist countries to optimise sports integrity protection frameworks, in particular in small and vulnerable states.
- Developing model indicators and a toolkit to support the measurement and evaluation of the contribution of sport to the SDGs, complimented by mapping of national sport policies against prioritised SDGs.
- Developing a consensus statement on promoting human rights in and through sport for consideration by the 10th Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting.
Ministers affirmed (as noted in the full 9CSMM Communique) that the MINEPS Sport Policy Follow-up Framework is a valuable reference point to support the development and implementation of coherent sport policy. They emphasised and agreed to take action to strengthen the alignment and coordination of sport policy implementation, in particular across government and with the Commonwealth Games Federation, affiliated member associations and the broader Commonwealth sport movement.
Commonwealth Heads of Government committed to take collective action to promote good governance, address corruption, protect the integrity of sport, and promote human rights through sport.
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
Following on from Gold Coast, the Commonwealth Heads of Government met in London on 19-20 April 2018 (CHOGM 2018), which included a meeting dedicated to specific deliberations on sport policy issues. In their final CHOGM 2018 Communique, Heads of Government affirmed the valuable contribution sport can make to the 2030 Agenda. They committed to work with Commonwealth sports bodies to maximise this positive impact and take collective action to promote good governance, address corruption, protect the integrity of sport, and promote human rights through sport.
The Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (CFNHRI) met at the same time as CHOGM 2018. There was considerable enthusiasm from Commonwealth NHRIs for the progress on sport and human rights and for further involvement, particularly from African NHRIs. CFNHRI is chaired for the next two years by the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission. That Commission will lead work by Commonwealth NHRIs on sport and human rights.
If you do not play by the rules you agree to, you cheat. We must ensure that human rights underpin sports integrity and sustainable development through sport.
A Centre for Sport and Human Rights
Embedding human rights within government sports policy is of fundamental importance both in Commonwealth member states, and beyond. In sport we learn to play by the rules. Even children will tell you if you do not play by the rules you cheat. Human rights laws are the rules governing competition in the human race. These are the rules states have freely agreed to follow. There is no compulsion. If you do not play by the rules you agree to, you cheat. We must ensure that human rights underpin sports integrity and sustainable development through sport.
A new Centre for Sport and Human Rights, to be launched in Geneva in June this year will play an important role in supporting policy coherence on sport and human rights, and in supporting states, sports bodies, and the private sector to meet their human rights obligations and responsibilities to ensure harm-free sport for all.
The author acknowledges the input of Oliver Dudfield (Commonwealth Secretariat) and Margaret MacDonald (New Zealand Human Rights Commission) in preparing this blog post.