A new advisory board with a human rights focus will hold its first meeting with FIFA in Zurich today.
The formation of the independent panel comes as the world’s football governing body fends off international criticism over labor abuses in various countries.
Problems have been found especially in nations that have held and will host the World Cup, including South Africa, Brazil, Qatar and Russia.
Last year, the author of a report commissioned by FIFA urged it to “consider suspending or terminating” its relationship with World Cup hosts who fail to clean up their human rights records.
The organization has stopped short of committing to that recommendation.
But in a statement this month, FIFA said it will take the new board’s advice seriously when it comes to ensuring that “labour standards, health and safety, property rights, security, discrimination and freedom of expression” are met across its operations.
‘Standing up’ for rights
The panel includes representatives from the United Nations, trade groups and businesses such as Coca Cola.
Human rights groups appear to be cautiously optimistic about the development.
Speaking to Doha News, James Lynch, deputy director of global issues at Amnesty International, said the panel “includes a number of credible voices.”
But he expressed concern because the panel’s mandate appears to have changed from one of monitoring and oversight to advising.
“If FIFA is going to live up to its recent public commitment to take human rights risks as seriously as it does its commercial interests, then it will need to listen very carefully to the advice of this group and act on their recommendations.”
In addition to the new panel, FIFA said it is coordinating closely with Qatar and Russia’s World Cup organizing committees to ensure they are meeting appropriate labor standards.
It added that officials are also working on integrating human rights criteria into the bidding process for the 2026 World Cup.