40/72 Report of the 2018 Social Forum
Human Rights Council Fortieth session
25 February–22 March 2019
Agenda item 5
Human rights bodies and mechanisms
Report of the 2018 Social Forum*
In accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 35/28, the Social Forum was
held in Geneva from 1 to 3 October 2018. Participants considered the possibilities of using
sport and the Olympic ideal to promote human rights for all and to strengthen universal
respect for them. The present report contains a summary of the discussions, conclusions
and recommendations of the Forum.
* The annex to the present report is being issued without editing, in the language of submission only.
United Nations A/HRC/40/72
I. Introduction ................................................................................................................................... 3
II. Opening of the Social Forum ........................................................................................................ 3
III. Summary of proceedings ............................................................................................................... 4
A. Sport, the Olympic ideal, and “a common standard of achievement for all peoples
and all nations” – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at seventy ........................... 4
B. “Born free and equal in dignity and rights”: sports, human solidarity and universal
values for all humanity ......................................................................................................... 5
C. Sports and the “equal rights of men and women”? ............................................................... 7
D. Celebrating diversity: inclusivity, equality and non-discrimination in sport –
the case of football ................................................................................................................ 8
E. Sports and rights at work ...................................................................................................... 9
F. Sports, sustainable cities and the right to an adequate standard of living ............................. 11
G. The power of collective action for sharing the benefits of sports: protecting
and promoting human rights through the life cycle of mega sporting events ....................... 12
H. Race against time: sports for sustainable development and sustained peace ........................ 13
I. Youth, children and future generations ................................................................................. 15
J. The way forward ................................................................................................................... 16
IV. Conclusions and recommendations ............................................................................................... 18
A. Conclusions .......................................................................................................................... 18
B. Recommendations ................................................................................................................. 19
List of participants ......................................................................................................................... 20
1. The Human Rights Council, in its resolution 35/28, reaffirmed the Social Forum as a
unique space for interactive dialogue between the United Nations human rights machinery
and various stakeholders, including civil society and grass-roots organizations.1
2. The 2018 Social Forum was held in Geneva from 1 to 3 October. It focused on the
possibilities of using sport and the Olympic ideal to promote human rights for all and to
strengthen universal respect for them. The President of the Council appointed the
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office and other international
organizations in Geneva, A.L. Abdul Azeez, as the Chair-Rapporteur of the Forum.
3. The programme of work was prepared under the guidance of the Chair-Rapporteur,
with inputs from relevant stakeholders, including United Nations agencies, non-
governmental organizations and sports governing bodies. The present report contains a
summary of the proceedings, conclusions and recommendations of the Forum. The list of
participants is contained in the annex to the report.
II. Opening of the Social Forum
4. In opening the 2018 session, the Chair-Rapporteur emphasized that the Social
Forum was a unique space for dialogue between various stakeholders on diverse aspects of
relations between human rights and society. This was especially important at a time when
multilateralism was being challenged. He introduced the themes of the panels and stated
that sports could bring people together, beyond competition, to promote solidarity and to
achieve shared objectives, including the realization of human rights. The Chair-Rapporteur
gave the example of how sports promoted human rights and understanding in Sri Lanka. He
celebrated the broad diversity of participants and concluded by calling for a constructive,
5. The President of the Human Rights Council, Vojislav Šuc, stated that the Social
Forum provided opportunities for Member States, human rights mechanisms, international
organizations, sports governing bodies, non-governmental organizations, universities,
grass-roots organizations and athletes, especially from developing countries, to dialogue on
relevant issues to promote human rights. Broad participation allowed for multiplying the
impact and efficiency of the work of the Council and strengthened its linkages with those
working on the ground. He recalled Council resolutions and a study by its Advisory
Committee on sports and human rights. The theme for the current session permitted the
Council to reach broader audiences. The President welcomed the inclusion of films and
cultural events during the session.
6. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet,
emphasized that sports shared common ground with human rights – which included fairness,
non-discrimination and equal opportunity. Sport was multicultural and promoted
empowerment, cooperation and integration for migrants, women and people from
vulnerable groups. Sport could produce outcomes harmful to human rights, such as
discrimination, abuse, forced evictions, poor labour conditions related to mega sporting
events, and violence against journalists and peaceful protestors. She noted efforts to
promote a non-discrimination legacy for the 2018 Fédération Internationale de Football
Association (FIFA) World Cup, initiatives relating to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar,
and cooperation with the International Olympic Committee and the International
Paralympic Committee. The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were a
baseline framework for measures and accountability. She called upon all to stand up for
human rights in every sport and to help design strategies to make sport promote the best of
1 For further details on the Social Forum, see www.ohchr.org/EN/issues/poverty/sforum/pages/
III. Summary of proceedings
A. Sport, the Olympic ideal, and “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations” – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at seventy
7. The President of the International Paralympic Committee, Andrew Parsons,
explained how sport and human rights could act together as catalysts for a better and more
inclusive world. Seventy years after the first international wheelchair race, the Paralympic
Games had become the world’s main sports event for driving social inclusion, with
thousands of athletes and billions of television viewers. Paralympic sports provided
mobility and empowered persons with disabilities to play active roles in society. This
challenged stereotypes. The infrastructure for Paralympic Games had improved
accessibility. By promoting inclusive communities, sports fostered harmony and peace, for
example, through teams with athletes from both the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
and the Republic of Korea. Persons with disabilities were still denied basic human rights.
They faced barriers resulting in poor health outcomes, lower levels of education and higher
rates of poverty than among the general population. The International Paralympic
Committee worked with partners to help implement the Convention on the Rights of
Persons with Disabilities, transforming lives and changing the world through sports.
8. Nawal El Moutawakel, a member of the International Olympic Committee, reflected
on the Olympic Movement’s mission to build a better world through sport. Both the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Olympic Charter prohibited discrimination
based on colour, race, sex, language, religion, or political or other grounds. The
Committee’s new host city contracts had embedded these principles further with a
commitment to increasing the respect of several dimensions of human rights in the
organization of Olympic Games, in line with human rights treaties and standards, and by
encouraging the organizing committees to achieve these objectives. The Committee
collaborated with all stakeholders to uphold its commitment to people’s rights and well-
being through the promotion of sustainability, of gender equality, of youth education and
empowerment and of integration and community-building through sport, and by addressing
harassment and abuse in sport. Ms. El Moutawakel welcomed the collaboration with the
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to uphold
efforts in protecting, promoting and respecting human rights, and called for the
strengthening of partnerships, dialogue and collective action with governments,
international organizations and civil society, with regard to their respective roles and
responsibilities, and across their spheres of influence.
9. The Secretary-General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, for the
2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Hassan al-Thawadi, recalled that 3.4 billion people
watched the FIFA World Cup. Football was a global platform that touched the human spirit,
regardless of location, culture or beliefs. The Supreme Committee used the power of the
World Cup to promote a better future for Arab youth by creating a centre of excellence
aimed at young professionals in new industries, by implementing ideas from young
entrepreneurs and by enhancing civic engagement and leadership skills. The World Cup
had accelerated the improvement of labour conditions in Qatar, which had been
accomplished in cooperation with the International Labour Organization and trade unions.
The main legacy of the 2022 World Cup would be to break down stereotypes and bring
peoples together. The Social Forum and the Kazan Action Plan demonstrated the
recognition by the United Nations of the contributions of mega sporting events to achieving
the Sustainable Development Goals. Mr. Al-Thawadi urged stakeholders to work together
to harness the potential of mega sporting events to promote a better world.
10. Rose Nathike Lokonyen, a track and field athlete in the 2016 Refugee Olympic
Team, shared her personal experiences since fleeing her village in South Sudan after an
attack. When she was 15 years old, she had taken part in a 10-kilometre race in a school in
a refugee camp. She had performed with excellence and earned the opportunity to join a
professional training camp in Kenya. Sport was not only a means to earn a living, but a way
to inspire others. The Olympic Games and sport had provided her with opportunities to
nurture talents and share experiences. Refugees’ participation in sports had inspired
millions of forcibly displaced youth around the world. Sports protected young refugee girls
from harmful practices and prevented young people from taking drugs. Sports, education,
freedom of movement and freedom of worship were important human rights for refugees.
Ms. Lokonyen called upon all to continue to protect refugees and others longing for peace.
11. The Chair-Rapporteur presented a short documentary about sports, human rights,
peace, reconciliation and unity in Sri Lanka. This was followed by general statements by
Belarus, Brazil, France, Greece, Japan, Qatar and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
Others who took the floor included representatives from the United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UNESCO-coordinated Youth and Sport Task
Force, the International Labour Organization (ILO) Global Commission on the Future of
Work, the International Paralympic Committee, World Indigenous Nations Sports
International, the Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII, the Equality League
(Pakistan), Association Le Pont, the World Players Association (also representing the
Sports and Rights Alliance), the University of Physical Education (Hungary) and the
Interdisciplinary Centre for Sports Science and Development, University of the Western
Cape (South Africa). Delegates referred to General Assembly and Human Rights Council
resolutions on the promotion of human rights through sport and the Olympic ideal, and
acknowledged the role played by the Kazan Action Plan. Basic values in founding
documents of the human rights and Olympic movements were universal, and promoted
solidarity, transparency, equity and non-discrimination. Sports created opportunities to
celebrate diversity, fight racism and xenophobia, and promote gender equality and the right
to health. Sporting events and activities were uniquely placed to promote inclusive societies
with respect to all human rights, including the right to development, and to promote
sustainable development and sustainable cities. The practice of sport was a human right.
Sports also promoted peace, through dialogue, understanding, trust and reconciliation
among peoples, and multilateralism. At a time of migration crisis, the Refugee Olympic
Team presented opportunities to raise awareness of the challenges faced by displaced
persons. Delegates recommended human rights mainstreaming in sport events and the
adoption of special measures to promote accessibility for persons with disabilities and equal
participation of men and women, and rights of specific groups, such as minorities and
lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. Other participants emphasized the
role of sport in realizing the human rights of youth and children, women and girls and
indigenous peoples. They also underscored the role of trade unions of athletes and other
workers related to sport events.
12. In response, Mr. Parsons emphasized the importance of collecting data to assess the
human rights and accessibility legacies of mega sporting events. Physical education was an
integral part of a values-oriented education. Ms. Moutawakel highlighted the transformative
power of sport and mega sporting events to support sustainable development objectives in
countries. She referred to efforts to promote the participation of women and youth in sports
and its governance at all levels. Mr. Al-Thawadi stated that creativity around sport events
allowed for new ways of promoting human rights, including those of indigenous and
displaced persons. Ms. Lokonyen spoke about the role of sports in promoting gender
equality, peace and hope and in giving voice to refugees.
B. “Born free and equal in dignity and rights”: sports, human solidarity and universal values for all humanity
13. Kipchoge Keino, recipient of the 2016 Olympic Laurel and member of the National
Olympic Committee of Kenya, argued that the right to participate in sports was the most
important human right of athletes, including women, youth, persons with disabilities and
refugees. Political boycotts of Olympic Games undermined that right. Doping denied
athletes the chance to participate in games within the bounds of fair play. The right to
freedom of movement should ensure that athletes could participate in games abroad. States
should invest in infrastructure and improve the coaching for all sports to allow athletes to
participate at a high level. The Olympic Movement could promote unity of youth
worldwide, and of all humanity. Mr. Keino acknowledged the roles of human rights
mechanisms, sports governing bodies, athletes, coaches, parents and civil society. His Kip
Keino children’s home worked for the preservation of the environment and to promote
access to food, water, shelter and education for those in most need and in least developed
14. Emma Terho, a member of the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’
Commission, argued that sport contributed to girls’ self-confidence and integration in
groups. Sport presented a common universal language that gave hope, opportunities and life
skills to the most vulnerable. The threshold to enter sports was high for those who could
most benefit from it. Coordination and cooperation between organizations, governments,
sports clubs and communities should ensure that everyone had the right to participate. The
International Olympic Committee championed that goal, for example by promoting the
Refugee Olympic Team and taking seriously the commitments in the Agenda 2030 for
Sustainable Development to gender equality. Women had comprised only 4.3 per cent of
participants in 1924, but would be 48 per cent in the 2020 Olympic Games. The 2018
Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games would have gender parity. Increasing the number of
women’s teams in collective sports, such as hockey, opened up opportunities to many other
women and girls to develop and improve their self-esteem.
15. According to the representative of World Indigenous Nations Sports International,
Willie Littlechild, the World Indigenous Games, celebrated in Brazil and Canada in 2015
and 2017 respectively, affirmed indigenous peoples’ self-determination through sport and
culture. Since 1977, Mr. Littlechild had advocated an indigenous perspective to sports and
the Olympic ideal. Direct and meaningful participation was crucial to indigenous peoples in
sports, but often denied. Traditional teachings and games promoted respect for the physical,
mental, cultural and spiritual elements of life. The five rings of the Olympic symbol
represented the latter element. Mr. Littlechild recommended that sporting events should
include indigenous participation and traditional protocol. He called for the implementation
of indigenous peoples’ right to cultural manifestations, including sports and traditional
games, and called on UNESCO to update its charter for traditional games and sports with
accurate references to indigenous peoples. Sport had the power to heal and to promote
peace and reconciliation.
16. Juan Pablo Salazar, a member of the International Paralympic Committee, recalled
that sport was an instrument for change. The impact on the civil rights movement of Smith
and Carlos’s 1968 podium salute provided an example. Mr. Salazar proposed a three-step
agenda on the human rights impact of sport. First, align the political will of stakeholders.
Second, collect data on correlations between sports and human rights. Third, promote
change through action plans, budgets, regulations and investments. Bridging the gap
between the human rights of persons with disabilities and the Paralympic movement was a
major challenge. Setting up networks among athletes and Sustainable Development Goals
and human rights activists was an important first step. Globally, UNESCO and the
Commonwealth Secretariat had led similar efforts. Mr. Salazar emphasized the importance
of networks between activists for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
and Paralympic athletes.
17. During the interactive dialogue, representatives of Cuba, Association Le Pont, the
Indigenous Peoples and Nations Coalition, the International Paralympic Committee, the
Intertribal Committee, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the
Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and a former Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as
a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-
discrimination in this context, took the floor. Participants condemned racist expressions in
sport, and structural injustices against indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, women,
children and local populations. They supported a human rights-centred perspective that
promoted dialogue and peace. Panellists were questioned on: motivations for athletes to
become activists, ways to ensure equal participation in games and inclusion in unequal
societies, the promotion of reconciliation through sports after historical injustices, ways to
reconcile the rights of athletes and of local populations, and how to commit sports to the
rights of the child and to self-determination of indigenous peoples.
18. In response, Mr. Salazar stated that athletes should be activists, as people affected by
discrimination (persons with disabilities, women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender persons, and so on) should lead and be better informed by agendas of their
respective affected groups. Athletes’ outstanding visibility enabled them to promote ideals
and messages that contributed to reconciliation and human rights. In Colombia, a good
Paralympic performance reflected positively in inclusion. Ms. Terho considered that sports
should provide a platform for athletes to speak out, but that athletes choosing not to express
an opinion should also be respected. Mr. Littlechild noted that since 1990, the North
American Indigenous Games had had a mandatory policy for 50 per cent women’s
participation and zero tolerance of abuse. The right of adults to participate in sport was a
continuation of the right of children to play, and had the potential to promote solidarity.
Referring to the boycott of the Montreal games by African countries, Mr. Keino said the
episode had frustrated the right of athletes to participate in sports. He insisted that politics
should not deny that right.
C. Sports and the “equal rights of men and women”?
19. The President of the Finnish Paralympic Committee, Mina Mojtahedi, shared her
experience, as a child with disabilities, of not having access to sports, until she began
practising wheelchair racing. She was the only woman with disability competing at the elite
level in Finland. She competed with men in racing and basketball. It was only later, by
working in the disabilities movement, that she realized and regretted the fact that women
with disabilities were seen as “persons with disabilities” with no recognition of their needs
as women. In the women and sport movement there was a lack of understanding of
challenges faced by women with disabilities. It was necessary to recognize the different
needs of girls and boys and women and men with disabilities, adapting programmes to
promote participation by the most marginalized. To empower future generations, women
with disabilities must be encouraged to become role models as coaches and leaders.
20. Noreena Shams, a member of the Equality League in Pakistan and a multi-sport
athlete, explained that, because her name meant “no more girls”, she had always questioned
why her family did not want more girls. From an early age, she had played cricket with
boys. Her mother had stopped her from playing in a female team due to the high incidence
of harassment. A coach had recommended that she disguise herself as a boy to be able to
play in a boys’ academy. There, she had performed at the same level as the boys. She had
then joined a squash team but had continued to face harassment and boycotts. Ms. Shams
believed she was making a difference, by being a role model as a successful young woman
athlete who shared experiences at the United Nations. That was her way to demonstrate that
women and girls could be elite athletes and among the best, making their countries proud.
21. Badamgarav Gangaamaa, a senior mountaineering guide and the first Mongolian
woman to successfully climb the seven summits, explained that Mongolian society was
open to women’s participation in most sports, but some boundaries still existed due to
traditions. Climbing the peak of sacred mountains was once beyond the limits for women.
However, it was important to push the boundaries while at the same time honouring
traditions. Success in sport should be based on hard work and determination, with complete
freedom. She argued that everyone should have the right to participate in sports,
irrespective of gender. International solidarity and friendship were the only ways to
overcome global challenges relating to poverty and natural disasters. Seven summiteers
planned to join forces to save “Mother Earth” for future generations and to promote gender
equality. For that, they would hold a United Nations-sponsored meeting in 2020 in
22. During the interactive dialogue, representatives of Human Rights Watch, the
Interdisciplinary Centre for Sports Science and Development, the Intertribal Committee,
Association Le Pont, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and World Indigenous Nations Sports
International, as well as the UNESCO Chair and a professional boxer from the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, took the floor. Delegates shared best
practices on promoting the participation of young and old women, with or without
disabilities, in sports and sports governance. Measures included incentives for mass
participation sports and for elite sports, as well as economic empowerment of women.
Participants emphasized role models, storytelling and collective action to promote gender
equality. The barriers for women to access sports included traditional restrictions, male
guardianship, and a lack of economic and moral incentives. Obstacles for women in sports
included corruption, harassment, violence, homelessness and refugee status. Participants
questioned how to challenge demeaning language directed at female athletes, ways for men
to participate in promoting gender equality, and how to connect international and grass-
roots campaigns, including in indigenous territories.
23. Reacting to comments and questions, Ms. Mojtahedi hoped that the “me too”
movement would gain momentum to tackle sexism also in sports. The practice of sport
constituted a right and was also a tool to access other rights. Human rights mechanisms
should give greater emphasis to sports. Ms. Mojtahedi welcomed storytelling and solid
evidence-based narratives. Ms. Shams stated that in many parts of the world, it was difficult
for women to leave the home to practise sports due to traditions and lack of financial
support, which was also aggravated by the selectivity of sponsors. She proposed that the
International Olympic Committee reflect on how to address women’s underrepresentation
in sport in every country. She cited the “Women Win” initiative which trained women
worldwide on storytelling, so they could become role models. Ms. Gangaamaa called upon
all present, especially athletes, to unite to protect human rights in all countries.
D. Celebrating diversity: inclusivity, equality and non-discrimination in
sport – the case of football
24. The head of the KickIn! National Advisory Centre for Inclusion in Football in
Germany, Daniela Wurbs, differentiated integration – individuals adapting to society, from
inclusion – society adapting its structures and services to the diversity of people. She called
for increased inclusion in football. Human rights arguments were not sufficient to convince
clubs, as the latter saw inclusion as a cost with no returns. Therefore, it was important to
make the business case for inclusion in sports. The German football leagues were the best
attended in the world. According to surveys, this was because tickets were sold at fair
prices, stadiums were accessible, fans felt ownership through democratic influence on club
governance and clubs embraced anti-discrimination. Still, there was room for improving
inclusion. The FIFA World Cup, despite being a commercial event, increasingly embraced
the idea of creating a legacy on inclusion and on anti-discrimination policies.
25. Robert Ustian, founder of CSKA Fans Against Racism, and a member of the
Executive Board of Football Supporters Europe, explained that the 2018 FIFA World Cup
had allowed Russians to build personal bridges and trust with people from different parts of
the world. Against common misrepresentations in the mainstream media and by officials,
direct contact allowed for the mutual perceptions of Russians and foreigners to improve
during the games. The positive experience of the World Cup would not be lost and would
remain as a legacy if engagement from the grass roots, governments and sports governing
bodies continued. This would also require honest, hard and open discussions to address the
many issues concerning racial discrimination, homophobia and xenophobia in sports. Only
in this way was it possible to harness the potential of football for positive change in society.
26. For Alexey Smertin, anti-discrimination and anti-racism officer of the Russian
Football Union and former captain of the Russian national football team, football far
surpassed the 90-minute game. It also encompassed what happened among fans and the
public at large. It created opportunities to think about team-building and community-
building. The World Cup amplified that potential. For the 2018 World Cup, the Russian
Federation had created a monitoring system to prevent discriminatory behaviour, and had
conducted awareness-raising seminars with fans and held courses in universities. Those
actions had ensured that there were fewer incidents of discrimination. Change of behaviour
was gradual and required advocacy with younger generations. The World Cup was a
collective endeavour, bringing millions together to a global celebration that could catalyse a
more inclusive society.
27. The Intercultural Football National Coordinator of the Football Association of
Ireland, Des Tomlinson, argued that inclusivity, equality and anti-racism operated together.
The European Union considered sport as a tool for promoting inclusion and anti-racism,
and sport could be used to counter the polarizing narrative against migrants and refugees.
For this, partnerships were essential, such as the one between Football Association of
Ireland and the Department of Justice in the framework of the national action plan against
racism and of related integration strategies. The cooperation was aimed at promoting
participation and challenging racism through an intercultural football strategy supported by
UEFA. An OHCHR-supported campaign with fan clubs and social media had encouraged
fans to stand up for human rights. This had created momentum for changing behaviours and
policies. In Ireland, guidance, training, surveys and audits were aimed at addressing
discrimination in football at all levels, including the grass roots. Football also contributed to
promoting language skills and cultural exchange with refugees and migrants.
28. During the interactive dialogue, representatives from the Association for Human
Rights in Kurdistan of Iran-Geneva, the Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII, the
Commonwealth Secretariat, the Equality League, the Fare Network, Human Rights Watch,
Association Le Pont, the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, the UNESCO Chair and the
Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela took the floor. Speakers addressed challenges, such as
exclusion of women and other groups from sports activities, mental health in sport, and
diversity and respect for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. Participants
enquired about ways to better promote diversity in sports. Some emphasized that
investments in and commitments to equality and inclusion could benefit businesses, by, for
example, attracting more fans to stadiums. Some participants shared good practices at the
national and international levels, such as Project Cicetekelo for children in street situations
in Zambia, which used football for inclusion.
29. In response, Ms. Wurbs called for victims of discrimination to have independent
contact points to protect and support victims’ identities. A structural approach with blanket
rules to pre-empt incidents was preferable to case-by-case solutions. She advocated giving
women a platform to call for action from governments, including access to stadiums. Mr.
Ustian pointed out the importance of giving voice to victims of discrimination. However, he
warned of the risks of politicizing major sporting events. Change had to come from within
societies. He called for sustainable national programmes to monitor authorities and their
implementation of anti-discrimination policies, and for human rights education through
sports. Mr. Smertin said that the Russian Football Union supported inclusivity and was
creating anti-discrimination policies. He noted the large number of girls playing football in
the country and the involvement of women in FIFA. Mr. Tomlinson noted the importance
of connecting football with wider governmental strategies on integration. This validated
sport as a social intervention for non-discriminatory treatment and equality.
E. Sports and rights at work
30. The Executive Director of the World Players Association, Brendan Schwab, stressed
the precarious and short-term nature of sporting careers. The Association worked to give
voice to players and to promote players’ rights enshrined in human rights, ILO and
UNESCO instruments. Violations included lack of payment, unjust contract termination
and sexual abuse. Many sports governing organizations still failed to embed human rights
in their activities and were reluctant to engage with players’ associations. In 2017, the
World Players Association launched the Universal Declaration of Player Rights, which is
organized into four pillars – access to sports, fundamental respect for labour rights, personal
rights and legal rights – and also declares the fundamental duty of every athlete to respect
the rights of fellow athletes. Mr. Schwab concluded by stating that if the world of sport
embraced a genuine dialogue on athletes’ rights, then it could be successful as a business
and cultural force.
31. A member of the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission, Danka
Bartekova, explained the work of the Athletes’ Commission, and the first-ever Olympic
Movement Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration, inspired by international
human rights standards. Athletes and their representatives had led the drafting of the
document, with a consultative and bottom-up approach, guided by a steering committee of
athletes’ representatives from across the Olympic Movement. The initiative had included a
broad and worldwide consultative process, with surveys involving thousands of athletes
from 190 countries. Most athletes in the Olympic Movement were not employed by sports
organizations. The content of the Athletes’ Declaration addressed the rights and
responsibilities of all athletes, though also contemplating professional athletes. The
Declaration included the rights to compete in fair, clean and discrimination-free
environments, to support for mental and physical health and for career transition, and to
freedom of expression, as well as the right to be represented in governance bodies and the
right to due process. Ms. Bartekova emphasized that the Declaration was a living document
which would have updates and revised editions to ensure its continuous relevance.
32. Rita Schiavi, Chair of the International Women’s Committee of the Building and
Woodworkers’ International, described that federation’s involvement in sports campaigns
for more than 10 years. The federation organized workers to address topics such as better
safety and health conditions, negotiations to have collective bargaining agreements in place
when engaging with mega sporting bodies, and the implementation of mechanisms to
address grievances. The World Cup in Qatar involved specific challenges, as most of the
workers were migrants who did not belong to any trade unions. To promote their rights, the
Building and Woodworkers’ International had undertaken media campaigns, performed
inspections and exerted multi-stakeholder pressure. Those efforts had resulted in the
adoption of new policies on salaries and on unions’ and workers’ rights, for those working
for the event, as well as for all workers in Qatar.
33. Peter Hall, a representative of the International Organization of Employers,
explained that the Organization favoured a holistic approach to mega sporting events and
human rights, recognizing that different events and contexts had different needs. He
emphasized the importance of embedding the Guiding Principles on Business and Human
Rights in sports governing bodies and events. The Organization participated in the advisory
council of the Centre for Sport and Human Rights. The Centre promoted collective action
to address multiple issues and to stress intersectionality. Mr. Hall described his work in the
Centre’s task force on business due diligence when sponsoring events. The Centre provided
a preventive approach and an opportunity for different stakeholders to learn from one
34. During the interactive dialogue, representatives of the Equality League, OHCHR,
the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and a former Special Rapporteur on adequate
housing took the floor. Participants questioned the inequalities between men and women
athletes, male and female sports and sports played in different country contexts.
Participants addressed means to provide remedies for violations of the human rights of
workers and athletes, with specific reference to the commitments of the Government of
Qatar to improve the situation of workers. One delegate provided examples of domestic
policies against discrimination in sports and of the right to participate in governance. He
questioned whether a new international institutional framework could enhance the capacity
of sports to promote a more just and equitable international order.
35. Reacting to comments and questions, Mr. Schwab noted that athletes’ salary rises
and gender equality often resulted from players being organized in unions to fight for rights.
Respecting players’ interests also improved businesses. Governing bodies should tackle
structural gender-based discrimination. The Guiding Principles on Business and Human
Rights could help prevent unconscious bias and remedy conscious bias. Ms. Schiavi
explained that, in cooperation with Qatar, the Building and Woodworkers’ International had
addressed back wages and workers’ living conditions, in particular the distances from
housing to labour sites and the number of workers per unit of accommodation. Ms.
Bartekova emphasized that the Olympic Charter would expressly reference the Athletes’
Declaration, signifying its central status within the Olympic Movement. She reaffirmed the
Olympic Movement’s commitment to supporting athletes during their sporting and non-
sporting careers. The International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission was
committed to encouraging the ongoing dialogue across the athlete community and with all
other stakeholders to ensure the continued relevance and effectiveness of that document. Mr.
Hall argued that no other international instrument on sports and human rights was required
beyond the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. He explained that the
Centre for Sport and Human Rights was compiling lessons learned for its implementation
F. Sports, sustainable cities and the right to an adequate standard of living
36. Raphaël Languillon-Aussel, a researcher at the University of Geneva, challenged the
theory that development was linear and argued for a model integrating equitable
distribution of benefits, as enshrined in the Declaration on the Right to Development. Urban
planning implied economic growth, while urban development involved an increase in well-
being. He illustrated Olympic-related projects, questioning the sustainability of impacts on
economic growth and infrastructure improvement as well as indirect negative impacts on
the housing and job markets. Despite positive outcomes on infrastructure and governance,
projects often resulted in unemployment and forcefully displaced local populations. This
undermined peoples’ right to development and their “right to the city”. The latter right
encompassed physical access, political access, and economic and social access to a city.
The correspondent responsibilities relating to the right to development and right to the city
rested – respectively – on States and the international community, and on local
governments and local communities. The Olympic Movement should consider these rights
in the selection of host cities.
37. The International Olympic Committee’s Head of Sustainability, Michelle Lemaître,
introduced the Committee’s “Olympic Agenda 2020” strategic road map. Its
recommendations 4 and 5 put forward specific sustainability requirements for the
International Olympic Committee, the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement. To
respond to them, the Committee had developed a sustainability strategy encompassing its
three spheres of responsibility – as an organization, as the owner of the Olympic Games,
and as the leader of the Olympic Movement. To complement the strategy, the Committee
had also developed a new strategic legacy approach and the “New Norm” set of reforms.
The latter was aimed at making the Olympic Games more affordable, more beneficial to
host cities and more sustainable. For host cities to effectively leverage mega sporting events,
governments and local authorities should see them as part of their long-term development
plans and not as one-off events. The Committee collaborated with cities to leverage the
benefits of the Games and adapt them to the long-term vision and needs of the cities. The
Committee could only achieve its sustainability goals and address pressing issues through
strengthened partnership and collaboration.
38. Miloon Kothari, a former Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, and president of
UPR Info, presented data related to displacement in Olympic and Commonwealth Games.
Many mega sporting events involved increased poverty, loss of jobs and human trafficking,
as well as a lack of information, participation, consultation and compensation in respect of
displaced persons. Those impacts constituted violations of the Olympic Charter and human
rights instruments, as they breached the human rights to life, health, decent work, an
adequate standard of living and freedom of movement. Often, Games permanently changed
the social fabric of cities, especially with regard to speculative motivations and
gentrification. Mr. Kothari recommended that sports governing bodies include respect for
human rights treaties, declarations and guiding principles as requirements in bidding
processes – including where evictions and internally displaced persons were concerned. He
also recommended that governing bodies conduct social impact assessments before making
decisions on mega sporting events.
39. During the interactive dialogue, the Chair-Rapporteur, and representatives of Angola,
the Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII, the Equality League, Human Rights
Watch, the International Paralympic Committee, Montenegro, OHCHR and the Tokyo
Organising Committee, and the UNESCO Chair, took the floor. One delegate referred to
the positive impacts that medals could have in fostering development and inclusion even in
countries not hosting mega sporting events. Another questioned how to reconcile human
rights with the risk of politicization of sports. Participants cited international instruments
and frameworks that could provide guidance on sustainable cities and inform human rights
impact assessments, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the New Urban
Agenda of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development
(Habitat III), the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Declaration on
the Right to Development, reports and guidance by human rights mechanisms, and the
Olympic Charter. Some stressed the importance of people’s participation in the games and
bids and the equitable distribution of wealth generated by mega sporting events. One
participant questioned whether governing bodies should assess the human rights records of
countries or host-city candidates, and whether there was a risk of aiming at unattainable
perfection in human rights. According to him, if human rights were used as a precondition
for the selection of venues, it would result in only a few venues being preferred for hosting
sporting events, at the cost of diversity.
40. Mr. Languillon-Aussel emphasized the importance of freedom of expression and
access to information in mega sporting events planning, including through human rights
impact assessments. He cited intergenerational dialogue and accessibility as positive
impacts of the Tokyo Games. Mr. Kothari considered that the financial burden of mega
sporting events was a negative legacy. Some cities became indebted due to games and
responded with tax hikes and cuts to social programmes. He lamented the negative impacts
of security crackdowns, especially when the needs of populations were disregarded. The
human rights threshold in bids should be that of the international obligations of the State.
He recommended that sports governing bodies cooperate with human rights mechanisms to
assess bidding proposals.
G. The power of collective action for sharing the benefits of sports:
protecting and promoting human rights through the life cycle of mega
41. Minky Worden, Director of Global Initiatives at Human Rights Watch, discussed
ways to harness the potential of sports to tackle human rights abuses, especially in host
States. This required visibility and voice for victims and civil society. Challenges needing
to be tackled included slave labour to build stadiums, discrimination against lesbian, gay,
bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, barriers obstructing women and girls from
playing or attending events, lack of accessibility to persons with disabilities, and
persecution and intimidation of human rights defenders and environmentalists. Those
abuses violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Olympic Charter and
commitments signed by host cities. Repressive governments saw mega sporting events as
opportunities to gain soft power. Mega sporting events could be catalysts to push them to
improve human rights records. Human Rights Watch had documented abuses and
advocated for reforms in sports governing bodies, including for the adoption of the Guiding
Principles on Business and Human Rights. Human Rights Watch belonged to several
alliances which promoted the integration of sport and human rights. Collective action was
essential to tackling systemic abuses.
42. The Project Director for Sustainability Planning, Tokyo Organising Committee, for
the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Nobuyuki Sugimoto, stated that the 2020 Games were
aimed at global reform through three concepts: achieving one’s personal best, unity in
tomorrow and connecting to tomorrow. Tokyo 2020’s sustainability plan was in line with
the 2030 Agenda. The plan included environmental and human rights-related goals. One
goal addressed human rights, labour and fair business practices (celebrating diversity)
throughout supply chains. The Games were being organized in line with the Guiding
Principles on Business and Human Rights, and promoted inclusive societies. A sustainable
sourcing code and a grievance mechanism had been developed through a transparent and
multi-stakeholder consultative process. Organizers hoped to influence and to bring about
more sustainable consumption and production patterns beyond Japan.
43. Rémy Friedmann, Senior Adviser, Human Security Division, Swiss Federal
Department of Foreign Affairs, affirmed that Switzerland was deeply committed to
collective action on complex thematic issues and would continue to participate in such
efforts. He described the country’s engagement in collective discussions on tackling human
rights violations related to sports and on how sports could become a force for good. Those
endeavours had resulted in the launch of the Centre for Sport and Human Rights, which
was aimed at sharing knowledge, building capacity and increasing accountability.
Collective action allowed for the creation of key milestones and indicators for integrating
human rights into mega-sport bidding processes, life cycles of events and host actor
contracts. Governments, organizing committees, civil society, fans, the public, athletes,
communities affected and consumers were enabling the power of collective action to
advance the human rights agenda in sport and beyond.
44. Taily Terena, a member of the Intertribal Committee, presented the story of the
World Indigenous Peoples Games in Brazil and its connections to human rights. Since 1996,
Brazil had hosted two international and several national and local indigenous games. The
events had encompassed sports, culture, tradition and spirituality. The games had invoked
rituals for ancestors’ blessings and used traditional materials in natural environments. They
had included football and traditional games practised by all or some indigenous peoples.
They had hosted cultural presentations, seminars, workshops and traditional art and
agriculture. Indigenous peoples found in sports a possibility to speak about their rights, to
be heard and to unite the indigenous and the non-indigenous. Indigenous games made
indigenous youth proud of their heritage and rescued their traditions. The United Nations,
the International Olympic Committee, governments and others should cooperate and invest
in human values for well-being (buen vivir). Ms. Terena called for differentiated sport
events for women, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and other groups. The
importance was in celebrating life, identity and culture.
45. During the interactive dialogue, Brazil, the Centre for Sport and Human Rights,
CSKA Fans Against Racism, Japan, Mountain2Mountain, World Indigenous Nations
Sports International and a former Special Rapporteur on adequate housing took the floor.
One delegate asked about practical difficulties and concrete steps to mainstream human
rights and sustainability in the 2020 Tokyo Games. Another enquired how indigenous
games could create bonds among indigenous peoples. Participants discussed indigenous
games, their value for elders and youth, and the important debates that these games hosted
on climate change and peace. One participant asked whether Olympic and FIFA games
could incorporate lessons of solidarity expressed in indigenous games. Another asked how
to exert collective pressure to ensure broader participation of women. There was a call for
more consultation and consideration of the perspectives of fans in sports, and an invitation
to all to engage in other dialogues on sport and human rights after the Social Forum, such
as the Sporting Chance Forum.
46. In response, Ms. Terena cited, as an example of post-event cooperation, a mission by
Canadian indigenous peoples to New Zealand to learn about traditional sport practices.
Connections among indigenous peoples allowed the exchange of good practices regarding
political mobilization. Indigenous games promoted concrete ways to respect the
environment. Mr. Friedmann stated that the Centre for Sport and Human Rights would
provide a platform that would give voice to women and fans. Mr. Sugimoto said that
practical difficulties were addressed through continued dialogue with all stakeholders in the
2020 Games. He called for help to disseminate the Tokyo 2020 grievance mechanism,
particularly for those abroad in the games’ supply chain. Ms. Worden said that, for years,
groups affected had not been taken seriously, but that recent trends were positive. Success
in setting new rules around sports had not yet translated into optimal implementation. The
systems implemented in Tokyo could serve as a model for future events.
H. Race against time: sports for sustainable development and sustained
47. Juan Sánchez, a participant in the International Olympic Committee’s Young
Change-Maker+ initiative, described his project in Colombia, created with the Committee’s
support. Challenged by the failure of the 2016 Colombian peace agreement referendum, Mr.
Sánchez saw sports as a tool to overcome polarization in society and to promote attitudes
that fostered peace. The project consisted in taking international sports that were not
popular in Colombia to communities at the margins of society. Resorting to various sports
had allowed different skills and values to be learned, including team- and peacebuilding.
Emphasizing the challenges faced by youth in initiating a project, he said that the support of
the Committee had raised his confidence in carrying out his project. He encouraged support
for youth initiatives as a way of advancing the Sustainable Development Goals.
48. Marion Keim, Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Sports Science and
Development, University of the Western Cape, South Africa, argued that promoting peace
and development through sports required assessing realities, including through mapping
exercises. Peace and violence correlated among other things to income, schooling, regional
integration, transparency and corruption. Youth had more opportunities in the global North,
while in the global South there were challenges including in health, education and research.
Sport should help bridge the North-South gap and promote sustainable development and
sustained peace, and, to this end, investment at the grass-roots level was essential. Ms.
Keim encouraged a values-based sports education to promote sustainable development and
peace, in school curricula, taking into account universal, Olympic and Paralympic values.
To avoid adverse effects on certain groups, coordinated efforts should link sports, peace
and development through the Kazan Action Plan and regular international dialogue. In
concluding, Ms. Keim called for capacity-building, youth network-building, and monitoring
49. The outreach manager of the Institute for Human Rights and Business, Guido
Battaglia, explained that the Institute hosted the Centre for Sport and Human Rights, a
multi-stakeholder initiative aimed at sharing knowledge, building bidding capacity and
strengthening accountability. A 2018 report by the Centre had mapped the use of human
rights principles by partnerships in disadvantaged areas to deliver projects on sport for
development and peace. Few programmes acknowledged due diligence responsibilities in
accordance with the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Integrating human
rights due diligence would help build trust among stakeholders, prevent, mitigate, identify
and remedy adverse impacts, and harness positive impacts of sport-based programmes.
Programmes should align with the principles of non-discrimination, participation, rule of
law, consent, accountability and good governance. Mr. Battaglia cited, as a good practice,
cooperation between UNESCO and the Commonwealth Secretariat to align the
implementation of the Kazan Action Plan with the Sustainable Development Goals. The
Centre for Sport and Human Rights could play a key role in facilitating collective action to
promote human rights through sports.
50. Shannon Galpin, author, activist and founder of the Mountain2Mountain non-profit
organization, shared her decade-long experience as a women’s rights activist in
Afghanistan. When she arrived in the country, women were starting to engage in sports, but
riding bicycles was still taboo. Bicycles facilitated access to schools and health care and
reduced gender-based violence rates. Ms. Galpin had helped a group of women cyclists to
progress on the right to ride in the country and to promote the first national women’s team.
The latter had attracted extensive media attention and high-level participation, and had even
been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming a source of national pride. This had
helped to normalize cycling among Afghan women. Bicycles thereby became tools not only
for development, but also for sustained peace and social justice.
51. During the interactive dialogue, the Chair-Rapporteur and representatives of the
Commonwealth Secretariat, the International Paralympic Committee, the National Olympic
Committee of Kenya, Association Le Pont, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and
World Indigenous Nations Sports International took the floor. A delegate asked panellists
how to foster international cooperation, transfer of technologies and collective action, in
order to promote the human rights of youth, sustainable development and peace with social
justice, in line with the Declaration on the Right to Development. Another participant
considered the Declaration on the Right to Development to be a tool to nurture the
interlinkages between peace, development and human rights, to advance on them all.
Participants made recommendations regarding indicators, including the adoption of a
human rights-based approach to indicators, integrating human rights indicators with those
related to sustainable development in sports, and formulating indicators to assess the impact
of adaptive sports in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities. Others recommended the pursuit of reconciliation through sports, an agenda
for peacebuilding in conflict-affected areas, integrating climate and environmental action in
projects, and promoting unity among the youth of the world.
52. Responding to questions, Mr. Battaglia said that the Centre for Sport and Human
Rights was building its capacity with partners to act as a public good to provide a
framework of recommendations for all stakeholders in the world of sport, including on
development and peace. Ms. Keim emphasized the importance of adopting indicators,
building capacity, and promoting development aid based on human values. She emphasized
the importance of Sustainable Development Goal 17 on building partnerships. Ms. Galpin
said that sport was key in connecting youth in conflict and post-conflict zones. Mr. Sánchez
stated that the return on investment in sport was not always clear, and that indicators could
help make the argument that sport was a viable tool for development. He called for support
for grass-roots initiatives to promote policy and human rights.
I. Youth, children and future generations
53. Youth networks on sports organized this item, based on a quiz game. The panellists
were Richard Loat, Vice-Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Sport for Development and
Peace Network; Jennifer Macapagal, representative of the UNESCO-coordinated Youth
and Sport Task Force; Nevena Vukašinović, representative of European Non-Governmental
Sports Organization (ENGSO) Youth; Miki Matheson, member of the International
Paralympic Committee’s Education Committee; and Mutaz Essa Barshim, Qatari track and
54. The first question discussed was what were the biggest barriers to youth accessing
sports. For Ms. Matheson, physical, economic and social barriers were the main factors for
persons with disabilities. She expressed concerns about limited infrastructure, poor policy
implementation, and overprotection of children with disabilities by their parents. Mr.
Barshim noted that education was key to overcoming barriers, as it allowed children to
understand that they had the right to participate in sports. Ms. Vukašinović argued that
sports should provide safe spaces, shelter for the homeless, heritage for indigenous peoples
and places of gathering. Access to information was essential to access to sports. Unilateral
coercive measures and religious intolerance were major barriers to sports. Ms. Macapagal
highlighted socioeconomic status, rapid, unplanned urbanization, and poor quality of public
spaces as barriers to youth accessing sports. Data suggested that non-communicable
diseases due to lack of physical activity were an important cause of deaths in the Asia-
Pacific region. Awareness about physical exercise could be raised among young people at
the grass-roots level.
55. The second question discussed was which stakeholders should get more involved in
protecting human rights through sports. Ms. Matheson described collaboration between
Paralympic sports and ministries of education to promote rights of persons with disabilities
and inclusive societies through sports. Mr. Barshim argued that governments and public
leaders should promote awareness of human rights through sports, giving the example of a
Qatari public holiday that motivated youth to engage with sports. Mr. Loat emphasized that
collective action was of paramount importance to achieve policy coherence and operational
efficiency. He cited the Centre for Sport and Human Rights as exemplifying good practice,
and argued for setting achievable milestones. Ms. Vukašinović called for a cross-sectoral
approach and collective responsibility. Businesses should cooperate with humanitarian
actors and youth, to provide know-how and other inputs. The United Nations Global
Compact’s alliance for Sustainable Development Goals financing was a good step towards
56. Participants next considered which innovations could contribute to promoting and
protecting human rights via sports. Ms. Macapagal highlighted “safe spaces” and their
different dimensions. It was important to ensure a guarded environment and quality
facilities in order to enable participation. Sports should not cause emotional harm but
instead bring about a feeling of belonging and well-being for participants everywhere. Ms.
Matheson highlighted new sports and the integration of technology. For example, she
recommended recognizing “e-sports” as sports that allowed for the participation of persons
with disabilities on the same footing as others. Mr. Barshim also emphasized e-sports,
stressing that they facilitated communication and skills worldwide. He mentioned the
example of the Aspire Academy, which integrates education and sport. Mr. Loat spoke
about leveraging opportunities around emerging sports, with examples such as e-sports
representing the largest opportunity, but also alluded to emerging alternative sports such as
world chase tag, quidditch and drone racing.
57. Contributions from the floor included comments from the Associazione Comunità
Papa Giovanni XXIII, Association Le Pont, OHCHR, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
and World Indigenous Nations Sports International. The experiences shared related to the
national legal framework in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, physical education for
persons with disabilities in Colombia, team sports for children in street situations in Zambia,
and cooperation to embed human rights values and international humanitarian law in e-
games. One delegate enquired how principles of international solidarity, sustainable
development and the fight against inequality could contribute to promoting human rights
through sports. A participant explained that indigenous sports were an important tool for
addressing social challenges to indigenous youth, especially those with disabilities, that
brought back their self-esteem.
58. Responding to questions, Ms. Vukašinović highlighted the importance of securing
digital “safe spaces” for children. Ms. Macapagal remarked that young people’s evidence-
based recommendations and initiatives could amplify their voices. She emphasized the
importance of cross-continental collaboration among youth and of promoting socially
responsible video games. Mr. Barshim referenced good practices of international
cooperation, such as an initiative by Qatar to promote sport among internally displaced
persons in Darfur. Mr. Loat stressed that e-sports could promote a level playing field and
development objectives, and that it was important to build best practices into emerging
sports while the sports structures were still being designed. Ms. Matheson mentioned how
apps could help to build awareness of challenges involved.
59. The panellists concluded by considering how to include and increase
institutionalized youth voices in decision-making in sports and human rights. For Ms.
Vukašinović, this required specific mandates, agendas, diversity, electoral processes and
budgets. Best practices in this context were exemplified by ENGSO Youth and the
European Athletics Young Leaders Community. Mr. Barshim advocated for youth to be
decision makers and to be provided with the necessary tools and environment to be creative.
Ms. Macapagal recommended involving youth in the mapping and planning of activities in
order to reflect their needs and make the most of available resources. Ms. Matheson called
for inclusive and human rights-based education for younger generations. Mr. Loat asked
that youth be included in legitimate and authentic decision-making to harness the passion of
youth, by youth and for youth, to build a world without injustices.
J. The way forward
60. The Director of the UNESCO Liaison Office in Geneva, Abdulaziz Almuzaini,
explained that UNESCO was the United Nations agency responsible for sport policy
development, and that all its members had adopted the International Charter of Physical
Education, Physical Activity and Sport, which affirmed the right of everyone to participate
in sports. The protection and promotion of human rights to, and in, sports were central to
the Kazan Action Plan. This was a tool to instigate change, share knowledge and scale up
good practice in the field of sport and human rights.
61. Catherine Carty, the UNESCO Chair project manager for “Transforming the lives of
people with disabilities, their families and communities, through physical education, sport,
recreation and fitness”, presented the following collective recommendations from
UNESCO, the UNESCO Chairs, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the International
Paralympic Committee, Power of Sport Lab, Special Olympics International, and the
Physical Activity and Sport Task Force of the Global Partnership on Children with
Disabilities: (a) implement the Kazan Action Plan and recognize its scope in aligning
national and international policies; (b) enable due diligence reporting on sport and human
rights to international mechanisms and in national and institutional policies and investment
strategies; (c) take a human rights-based approach to the development of indicators on sport
and the Sustainable Development Goals, under the auspices of the Kazan Action Plan and
the United Nations Action Plan on Sport for Development and Peace; (d) include sport-
related indicators in the statistical indicators developed by OHCHR; (e) include disabilities
under prohibited discrimination in the Olympic Charter; (f) include a panel on inclusive
physical education and school sport in the 2019 Social Forum; (g) elevate the status of sport
as a sustainable development and human rights tool; and (h) consider the creation of a
“sport treaty” to coordinate reporting and responsibility in physical education, physical
activity and sports.
62. Philip Jennings, co-founder of the World Players Association and member of the
ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work, argued that fault lines still existed in sports.
For effective collective action, the voice of athletes and players should be taken seriously.
Their fundamental human rights, including labour rights, should be respected. The
International Olympic Committee should embed respect for international human and labour
rights as an operational principle. Organized struggle by players contributed to addressing
exploitation and promoting human rights and equality. Civil society and unions had the
capacity and experience to contribute to solutions. Involving them would enhance the
power of sport. Mr. Jennings requested the International Olympic Committee to delay the
adoption of its Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration, as the draft fell short of
international human rights standards.
63. Stavroula Kozompoli, an Olympic medallist in water polo, a member of the
International Olympic Committee’s Marketing Commission, and President of the Hellenic
Olympic Winners Association, stated that sport was universal, and had no languages nor
barriers. It promoted respect for diversity, teamwork and common views that prevented
conflicts and united people. All athletes should fight against racism and stereotypes, and
promote gender equality and the inclusion of persons with disabilities, of refugees and of
other vulnerable people. Ms. Kozompoli described two initiatives that she led in Greece.
The first was a football team for refugee girls, which promoted their dignity and self-esteem.
Through the second initiative, Olympic and Paralympic athletes visited primary schools
together promoting tolerance for diversity, respect for other cultures and human rights.
Athletes were the best role models for positive behaviour, human rights and solidarity,
because they experienced extreme challenges and succeeded.
64. Representatives of the Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII, Human Rights
Watch, the Equality League, Association Le Pont, the Sports and Rights Alliance and
World Indigenous Nations Sports International made concluding remarks. Participants
regretted human rights violations related to sports such as criminalization of lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender persons, barriers to women attending matches, promoting
bellicose language in sports, and making budgetary cuts that undermined the potential of
sports to promote peace and development. Participants called for multi-stakeholder
engagement and giving voice to underprivileged groups such as women, youth and
indigenous peoples. One participant considered mega sporting events to be a litmus test of
the realization of the right to development, as only by abiding by its principles could
Member States realize other human rights. Another participant warned against unilateral
and uncooperative work, saying it entailed dangers of human rights violations. Good
practices included the decision to grant equal pay to men and women players in
international squash events, and the empowerment of children in street situations through
65. Reacting to comments, Ms. Carty argued that the power of data and of narratives
was critically important, whether they were about good or bad experiences. She stressed
calls for change in and through sports, and supported participatory decision-making. The
Kazan follow-up framework could be a means to address those demands. Mr. Jennings
called for recognition of the role of trade unions, and for freedom of association and
collective bargaining. Sport was not exempt from those basic rights. Ms. Kozompoli
advocated more education and solidarity programmes and actions using innovative means
to promote equality in society and protect human rights. It was important to move from
theory to practice in order to achieve results.
IV. Conclusions and recommendations
66. The following conclusions and recommendations emerged from the 2018 Social
67. The Social Forum highlighted interlinkages between human rights, and sports
and mega sporting events, stressing convergences between the Olympic Charter, ideal
and values, and human rights principles enshrined in human rights instruments.
Sport touched upon many human rights aspects and served as a catalyst for the
promotion of human rights. The importance of pro-sport, pro-human rights policies
and practices at all levels was emphasized.
68. Mega sporting events were among the most watched events in the world and an
outstanding platform with the potential of being an accelerator of the promotion of
human rights. The attention drawn by professional, Olympic and Paralympic athletes
allowed them to become role models and sources of inspiration for billions of people.
Upcoming sports and new technologies also provided opportunities to mainstream
human rights and reach new audiences and constituencies.
69. Sports and sporting events could either promote or could negatively impact on
the rights of athletes and other persons who practised sports, fans and fan clubs, local
populations, and workers in jobs related to sports, sport equipment and facilities.
Some particular groups of concern included persons with disabilities, women, children
and youth, elders, indigenous peoples, national or religious minorities, refugees,
internally displaced persons, migrants, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and
intersex persons, and persons living in poverty. Challenges remained on means of
protecting human rights and remedying violations.
70. Professional players’ unions had adopted the Universal Declaration of Player
Rights and the Olympic Movement was to adopt the Athletes’ Rights and
Responsibilities Declaration. Other workers in the area of sports had also achieved
recognition of rights, including construction workers in the context of mega sporting
71. Hosting a mega sports event was an opportunity to promote more sustainable
cities in which citizens could have healthier lives thanks to more and better sports
facilities, transport integration and housing and planning. However, such events often
affected the right to development and other human rights, due to corruption,
increased public debt, forced or induced displacements, loss of jobs and livelihoods,
and possible negative effects of gentrification. Lack of development also affected the
opportunities of billions to access sports.
72. Participants shared examples of human rights policies and other instruments
adopted by sports governing bodies, governments and international organizations.
However, the complex challenges and opportunities involved in the relationship
between sports and human rights could not be solved unilaterally. In this regard, the
creation of the Centre for Sport and Human Rights provided important opportunities
for effective collective actions.
73. The values and skills transmitted through sports created unique opportunities
for the promotion of peace, reconciliation, understanding and solidarity. Sports was
also a means for the empowerment and development of groups often left behind and
for challenging stereotypes and taboos. Sports and human rights underpinned the
national and international drive towards realization of the 2030 Agenda.
74. Various mapping and research exercises had been undertaken on the
relationship between sports and human rights. These could provide benchmarks for
75. States, sports governing bodies and other stakeholders should respect, protect
and consider all human rights in the context of sports. Their actions should be guided
by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, core human rights treaties, the
Declaration on the Right to Development and the United Nations Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and other instruments such as the Olympic Charter, the
Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the International Charter of
Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport. Furthermore, the 2030 Agenda, the
Kazan Action Plan and follow-up mechanism, and the United Nations Action Plan on
Sport for Development and Peace can help inform this process.
76. States should leverage sport to contribute to human rights protection and
achieve the 2030 Agenda by working in collaboration with all interested stakeholders,
including the sports community, civil society, international organizations and
77. Sports and mega sporting events should serve as a platform to promote human
rights and more peaceful, inclusive, just and equitable societies and international
order. Athletes, as role models, should be encouraged to stand up for human rights.
Physical education, physical activities and sport should be inclusive and based on
human rights values. Upcoming sports and new technologies should embed human
rights by design.
78. Sports and mega sporting events should respect and consider the human rights
of especially affected groups, populations and peoples. The planning, implementation
and follow-up to sports policies and events should rely on transparent processes,
include human rights impact assessment and due diligence dimensions, and provide
effective grievance mechanisms for possible violations. The voices of those affected
should be taken into account at all times. Decision-making bodies should ensure
diversity, including by promoting gender equality. Special sporting events of certain
groups – such as indigenous peoples, women, youth, lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender and intersex persons, and others – should be encouraged as a means to
broaden opportunities and highlight specific challenges faced by them.
79. Players and other workers in the context of sports should enjoy rights to
representation and to organize for their own rights. Migrants, including
undocumented migrants, should have their freedom of association and labour rights
respected and promoted in the context of sports.
80. Sports policies and events should be based on multi-stakeholder collective
action at all levels. Relevant United Nations organizations, in particular OHCHR and
UNESCO, should continue to provide guidance on sports and human rights and
engage actively with governments, the sports movement, the Centre for Sport and
Human Rights and other relevant stakeholders.
81. The Centre for Sport and Human Rights should consider mapping initiatives
and disseminate good practices on the promotion of reconciliation, peace and
understanding through sports, especially in conflict and post-conflict scenarios.
82. Sports-related reporting should adopt a human rights-based approach to data,
and human rights indicators should include sport-related indicators. Human rights
mechanisms should continue to consider sports and sporting events in their reports
List of participants
States Members of the Human Rights Council
Angola, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Egypt, Iraq, Japan, Mexico,
Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain,
Switzerland, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of).
States Members of the United Nations
Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Brunei Darussalam, Colombia,
Costa Rica, France, Greece, Honduras, India, Iran, Italy, Kuwait, Monaco, Mongolia,
Montenegro, Morocco, Norway, Romania, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Thailand.
Non-Member States represented by observers
Holy See, State of Palestine,
Commonwealth Secretariat, Inter-American Bank of Development.
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Labour Organization (ILO),
International Organization for Migration (IOM), Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), United Nations International Children’s
Emergency Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs
(UN DESA), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Industrial
Development Organization (UNIDO).
National Human Rights Institutions
Scottish Human Rights Commission.
Sport Governing Bodies
International Committee of Sports for the Deaf, International Olympic Committee,
International Paralympic Committee, National Olympic Committee of Kenya, Special
Olympics International, Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy of the 2022 Qatar
FIFA World Cup, The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic
Games, World Indigenous Nations (WIN) Sports International, Union of European Football
Associations (UEFA), United World Wrestling (UWW), World Anti-Doping Agency,
World Indigenous Peoples’ Games (Brazil).
Non-governmental organizations and others
African Association of Central Finland, Association Bharathi Centre Culturel Franco-
tamoul, Association for Human Rights in Kurdistan of Iran-Geneva, Association Le Pont,
Associazione comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII (APGXXIII), BBAG eV – KickIn! Advisory
Center for Inclusion in Football, Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI), Centre
pour la Gouvernance Démocratique (Burkina Faso), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen
Participation, CSKA Fans Against Racism, Département de l’instruction publique, de la
formation et de la jeunesse / République et canton de Genève, Donna-Fit, Equality league
organization (Pakistan), European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation, European Non-
Governmental Sports Organisation Youth (ENGSO Youth), Fare Network, Foundation for
Sport, Development and Peace, Geneva Brass Quintet, Global Partnership on Children with
Disabilities’ Physical Activity and Sport Taskforce, Hellenic Olympic Winners Association,
Home Box Office (HBO), Human Rights Watch, Indigenous Peoples and Nations Coalition
Indigenous Peoples’ Center for Documentation, Innocence In Danger, International
Committee of the Red Cross, Inter-Tribal Committee on Indigenous Science and Memory
(Brazil), Kipkeino Foundation, Lutheran World Federation, Minority Concern of Pakistan,
Mongolia Expeditions, Mountain2Mountain, NGO Kulsport, Oak Foundation, ONG
Conseil Suisse, Operasjon Skiglede, Peaceful & Active Center for Humanity (PEACH),
Power of Sport Lab, PULSE! International Sports Film Showcase, Refugee Olympic Team
2016, Research and Information (DOCIP), Russian LGBT Sport Federation, Samagra Vikas
Sansthan, SchweryCade, Service de l’éducation physique et du sport/ Canton de Vaud,
Service des sports de la Ville de Genève, Seven Eyes, Sports and Rights Alliance, Sseninde
Foundation, Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation, The Out Reach Story, Inc., Together
Films, Tourner La Page, UNESCO coordinated Youth and Sport Task Force, UNI Global
Union, World Bicycle Relief, World Economic Forum, World Players Association, UPR –
Académie internationale des sciences et techniques du sport (AISTS), ETH Zurich (Swiss
Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich), Federal University of Uberlandia (Brazil),
Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), Haute École d’Arts
Appliqués Genève (HEAD), Haute école de travail social de Fribourg (HETS-FR), Haute
école de travail social de Genève (HETS-GE), Haute école spécialisée de Suisse
occidentale (HES-SO), Interdisciplinary Centre for Sports Science and Development,
Science Po Grenoble, The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public
Administration, UNESCO Chair Institute of Technology Tralee (Ireland), Universidade
Federal de Minas Gerais (Brazil), University of Geneva (UNIGE), University of Lincoln
(United Kingdom), University of Physical Education, Budapest (Hungary), University of
the Western Cape (South Africa), University of Zurich.