Original HRC document


Document Type: Final Report

Date: 2019 Jan

Session: 40th Regular Session (2019 Feb)

Agenda Item: Item5: Human rights bodies and mechanisms



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

I. Introduction

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,

action-oriented discussion.

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

sporting events

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

of policies.

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

field athlete.

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

collective responsibility.

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


A. Conclusions

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

further action.

B. Recommendations

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

and recommendations.


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,

Intergovernmental organizations

Commonwealth Secretariat, Inter-American Bank of Development.

United Nations

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 –


Academic institutions

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.