THE BLOG

Blatter's Inaction on Human Rights Must End

01/06/2015 17:08 BST | Updated 01/06/2016 10:59 BST

Blatter is to serve a fifth term despite a record on corruption and human rights that is characterised by disinterest and wilful ignorance. It isn't yet clear whether he will act to improve Fifa's record on either count, but what is certain is that radical change is needed to rebuild Fifa's tattered reputation.

This week's allegations call into question many of Fifa's actions over recent years, not least their decision to award the 2022 World Cup to the small and sweltering oil state of Qatar. If Qatar's victorious bid is found to be corrupt, Fifa's executives will be guilty of not only of acting without shame, but without conscience.

Infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup has cost an estimated 1,200 lives so far, with a possible three thousand more to come before the project's completion, according to a report by the International Trade Union Confederation. That would be four hundred times the number killed in the preparations for the last World Cup in Brazil.

Fifa's laissez-faire approach to human rights must change, and if Blatter has any interest in improving its record, he must use his fifth term as President to introduce, and wilfully enforce, new mechanisms of scrutiny. But as human rights concerns seem to surface only once a bid has been approved, it will be hard to guard against future tragedy unless specific criteria are introduced in the bidding process.

James Lynch, Amnesty's Head of Business and Human Rights has said how difficult it is to hold Fifa accountable when human rights considerations didn't have to be part of the decision making process. He claims there is always a risk that sporting events that will give rise to abuse in terms of labour rights, forced evictions or clampdowns on freedom of speech. In bidding, nations should have to consider how they would cope with the tight construction deadlines, demand for land and protests that often come with hosting the World Cup, without compromising human rights.

Introducing concrete human rights criteria would be a prudent move for Fifa and could safeguard them against future claims of corruption: where winning nations are seen to have less-than-perfect human rights records, officials will be able to point to specific arguments in their bids that have persuaded them that they will be a safe location for the event.

Other sporting bodies have tried to make human rights a more central part of their bidding process and Fifa would be wise to follow suit. The International Olympic Committee's has included clauses concerning environmental protection and labour rights in the 2022 Host City Contract sent to candidate cities earlier this year and, in a bid to improve transparency, the Contract is to be made public.

In the wake of this media frenzy, there is a unique opportunity to hold Fifa to account not only for their corruption, but also for the lives their greed has cost. Blatter can no longer claim ignorance of the endemic corruption within his organisation and he must be held to a standard that does demand he "watch everyone all the time". It is time for Fifa's ethos to change and we must demand that a greater focus on human rights is part of that change. Otherwise it won't just be stolen dollars that continue to line the pockets of Fifa executives, but stolen lives.