FIFA 2022 World Cup Qatar and the legacy of decent work: Deafening silence on the future of migrant workers’ rights
(Photo: Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach)
Doha, Qatar and Geneva, Switzerland, 18 November 2022: After more than a decade of the Campaign for Decent Work around the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, two days ahead of the Tournament, the Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) assesses progress made on the fulfilment of the promise for a decent work legacy for migrant workers and calls on the Qatari authorities to join with BWI to build on and expand improvements made and to establish a Migrant Workers’ Centre that will enable workers to have a say in their destinies. That is a legacy for Qatar and the world that will live on beyond the end of the World Cup tournament. However, to date, there is no sign that sustainable change is forthcoming.
BWI ended its red card for FIFA campaign in 2016. Since then, BWI has developed dialogue opportunities with the Qatari authorities, entered into a partnership with the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) for decent work standards associated with World Cup construction projects, and gained an opportunity to work on the ground.
FIFA adopted a human rights policy and BWI was represented on a small body to oversee progress. The policy spells out its commitment to respect all internationally recognised human rights and to promote the protection of these rights. This includes supporting, accompanying, and sustaining reforms and enabling further advances in the protection of the human rights of migrant workers in Qatar toward and beyond 2022. However, FIFAs human rights commitments no longer seem to receive the same priority that they did when the policies were developed and adopted. There is a fundamental conflict between a strong human rights policy and a ‘business as usual’ approach.
On several occasions, BWI has recognised advances made in Qatar in recent years on labour legislation. However, further improvements need to be made on implementation, inspection and enforcement. Despite legislative changes, in its work with migrant workers, BWI has observed many employers defying the law, breaching human rights and perpetuating injustices that reforms were intended to eliminate.
There are serious shortcomings, but there is also BWIs history of cooperation with Qatari authorities and the good faith from both parties that has served as its foundation. Given both the problems and that positive tradition, BWI considers that, if reforms are to be sustainable, it is critical to reach agreement before the end of the World Cup in three areas:
- The establishment and recognition of a Migrant Workers’ Centre to sustain and advance ongoing work and as a vehicle for workers to continue to develop their capacity, understand their rights under Qatari law, and gain leadership and other skills. The Centre has received support from the global football community and from human rights organisations.
- The consolidation and embedment of the improvements achieved by the SC regarding healthy and safe work and workers’ welfare standards around the World Cup construction projects and their expansion throughout the entire construction sector in Qatar.
- The effective implementation of the joint BWI-Ministry of Labour of Qatar Memorandum of Understanding especially on the respect and enforcement of labour reforms, awareness raising, training, use by workers of complaint procedures, and the institutionalisation of the Community Leaders Forum – the organised voice of migrant worker communities in Qatar.
It is regrettable that, as the World Cup is about to start, BWI has still not received a response on any of the positive initiatives above. Instead, there has been a deafening silence.
In football terms, migrant workers are playing the extra time and the result is still unknown. On 18 December, the World Cup will be over and the teams and the fans will return home. However, migrant workers will remain. They will continue to build and perform other services that contribute to the progress and prosperity of Qatar.
BWI will continue to stand with the migrant workers in Qatar beyond the 2022 World Cup and until their human rights are fully realised, protected, and respected.