Rarely does a topic engage people in such a passionate way as sports. International sporting competitions are among the most anticipated and keenly followed events in the world. Even away from the spotlights, sports can play a significant role in the day-to-day life of anyone who follows, plays or competes in one way or another. Sports move the hearts and minds of millions.
Yet, sports can also negatively impact peoples’ lives. We’ve all heard dreadful stories of workers suffering inhumane conditions and even risking their lives as they rush to meet the deadline to inaugurate a stadium. We’ve learned that vulnerable young athletes can be subject to harassment and abuse in training for the sport they love. We’ve seen women banned from stadiums and athletes barred from competitions based solely on their gender identity. And we’ve witnessed how impunity can prevail when journalists and human rights defenders can be censored, arbitrarily detained or more severely harmed for bringing attention to these issues.
At Shift, we decided to invest in building expertise in sports and human rights precisely because of that duality: on the one hand, because we understand the significant impacts that the sector can have on people’s lives and on the other hand, because we know that there is immense opportunity (and responsibility) in leveraging the passion, excitement and size of this multi-billion-dollar industry to ensure that human dignity is duly respected.
Our Hands-on Expertise
At Shift, our sports and human rights work has focused on strategic collaboration with global governance bodies – including FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – and their stakeholders such as international advocacy groups, organizations and trade unions. We believe that as standard setters, global sports bodies have the reach, leadership, power and responsibility to provoke cascading change across their industry. For five years now, Shift has offered advisory support to influential sports organizations as they work to meet their responsibility to respect people’s dignity.
In recent years, we’ve also seen increasing interest from global companies wishing to better understand how the events, teams or athletes that they sponsor could connect them to human rights risks and impact and what to do about it.
If you are interested in collaborating with Shift to advance human rights in sports, contact us.
April 2016 | Publications
“For the Game. For the World.” FIFA and Human Rights
Click on the arrows to browse through the different partners that we’ve worked with:
The International Olympic Committee
Since 2018, Shift has provided support to the International Olympic Committee’s ongoing human rights efforts, including on human rights challenges connected to bidding and candidature processes for various editions of the Olympic Games and to the IOC’s role as the leader of the Olympic Movement. We are bringing our expertise on the global standard – the UN Guiding Principles – and our practical, capacity-building approach to help the IOC move forward.
In addition to this operational support, starting in March 2019, Shift Vice President Rachel Davis joined efforts with former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to provide recommendations to the IOC on the core content of a strategic framework on human rights. The joint recommendations were presented to President Bach in February 2020 and the IOC announced initial steps to implement them in early March 2020. A summary of the recommendations may be found here.
Following the report, FIFA adopted a human rights policy and due diligence processes and established the FIFA Human Rights Advisory Board in 2017. The Advisory Board – chaired by Shift Vice President Rachel Davis – is an independent body composed of international experts with the mission to help strengthen FIFA’s efforts to ensure respect for human rights. The Board publishes regular reports containing its recommendations to FIFA and tracks the organization’s progress against them, which you may find here.
Féderation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA)
In October 2020, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body of world motorsport, asked Rachel Davis, Vice President of Shift and Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to provide expert advice on human rights to the FIA. Through this agreement, Rachel Davis and Anna Triponel from Shift, together with Prince Zeid provide support to the FIA in developing strategic frameworks on diversity and inclusion and human rights and make recommendations to the President of the FIA on creating a more diverse and inclusive culture across motorsport and mobility; an advancing the organization’s broader approach to managing human rights risks in line with international human rights standards.
The process includes consultation with stakeholders on how the FIA can strengthen its efforts, building on its existing work to ensure motorsport and mobility are safe, sustainable and accessible, particularly through the FIA’s Purpose Driven movement.
In July 2020, the World Athletics’ Council appointed a Human Rights Working Group. The Working Group has been tasked with developing a human rights framework for the organisation and making any recommendations to further implement human rights at World Athletics. The Working Group is made up of seven members with representatives from all regions, including Council members.
The Working Group is receiving expert advice from the Centre for Sport and Human Rights and Rachel Davis of Shift on relevant human rights standards and their implications for World Athletics’ operations. The Working Group will report to the World Athletics Council later this year.
The Centre and Shift may make an independent comment on the final report, and if they do so, the Working Group will include this within the report itself.