As my first year leading the Centre for Sport and Human Rights comes to a close, I wanted to reflect on some of what we have achieved in 2019 as we look ahead to where we need to make further progress in 2020.
Proving That Collective Action Works
At the 2018 Sporting Chance Forum in Paris, I said we were at a point where the sport and human rights movement had been mobilised, and it was important to translate the theory of change behind the Centre’s creation into concrete action.
The opportunity to demonstrate this came sooner than expected. Prior to my start in January, many of our stakeholders raised the concerning case of the detainment and possible refoulement of refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi, and rightly asked how the Centre was going to respond. My first week on the job, the Centre convened calls to bring together sports bodies, governments, IGOs, corporates, and civil society with the sole objective of freeing Hakeem. The combined efforts and collective action of the Centre, Advisory Council and others not only played an important role in freeing Hakeem, but provided a powerful and indelible example of what we can achieve together..
Building on the resources developed as part of the MSE Platform, our work in 2019 set out to put these tools into action, including by helping strengthen the capacity of those working most closely with sport. We developed new tools which are now with you for consultation (Games Time Risk Guide, Championing Human Rights into the Governance of Sports Bodies – annex specific to Multi-sport governing bodies). In September, we had the opportunity to deliver human rights training to the 53 national federations that make up the Commonwealth Sport family. We also engaged prospective bidding countries for the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Finally, we held briefing calls with our broadcaster stakeholders on human rights issues at events taking place in countries such as Azerbaijan, China and Saudi Arabia.
In May of this year, with the landmark decision from CAS ruling against Caster Semenya, it became clear that human rights awareness needed to be raised and capacity built for those who give legal advice to sports bodies. As part of our developing work on Remedy this year and to begin this important conversation, the Centre hosted a workshop for sports law practitioners with our colleagues at Clifford Chance. The event more than met expectations, with consistent feedback from attendees who welcomed debate on an important topic in need of serious engagement. We are pleased that, with the support of colleagues at Clifford Chance, the workshop will be an annual event going forward.
Continuing to Share Knowledge, Expanding our Global Footprint
We took our first steps during 2019 to work with partners in Africa by hosting a workshop in Rabat, Morocco which brought together a number of sports bodies and national human rights institutions from both anglophone and francophone countries on the continent. We took further steps in developing our Africa Strategy by hosting 16 African National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) at an event in Rwanda to discuss child rights and remedy.
On children, the Centre expanded its own capacity by appointing our first senior thematic expert. Millions of children and young people take part in sporting activities every day across the world, and they have the right to participate in sport in a safe and enjoyable environment. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. One of the first actions the Centre took on child rights was to successfully lobby to ensure that references to sport were included in the Guidelines to Optional Protocol 2 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Fittingly for a year that started with collective action of the Advisory Council, it was fantastic to welcome Hakeem Al-Araibi to the Sporting Chance Forum in Geneva last month (session video will be published in the new year). The reception Hakeem got from attendees was incredible, heart warming and a reminder of why we do what we do. As Craig Foster said when talking about Hakeem’s story: “This is the power of sport.”
Next year will be a busy one for the Centre and we’ll be back in touch early in 2020 to update you on our plans.
Thank you for your support, your challenges and your engagement through 2019. I look forward to achieving much together in 2020.
CEO, The Centre for Sport and Human Rights