News

June 13, 2018

2026 World Cup: FIFA as human rights rule-giver

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes FIFA’s long-awaiting decision to include human rights criteria in the choice of countries to host the World Cup, but questions its implementation. The names of the countries that will host the 2026 FIFA World Cup were announced today.

In its candidacy guide, published in May 2017, FIFA insists on its determination to ensure that the procedure for choosing World Cup hosts was beyond reproach, while in a separate document issued the same month, FIFA announced that it is “committed to respecting human rights in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.” As regards the choice of a country to host the 2026 World Cup, FIFA requested a clear committment to human rights, including the freedom to inform, from candidate countries. So far, so good.


As long as it is really implemented, we can only welcome FIFA’s seductive promise to base the selection of World Cup host countries on rigorous criteria regarding human rights, including press freedom,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “The problem is that FIFA seems to be stepping outside of its role of promoting football in order to instruct governments on the human rights policies they should adopt.


In the chapter on human rights in its document on candidate evaluation, FIFA says it will assign to the selected candidate countries a series of measures designed to improve the effectiveness of their strategy on human rights. "The host country’s implementation of additional measures defined by FIFA is obligatory," it says.


But FIFA’s selection is based solely on the undertakings given by the candidate country and the dossier it provides, even if the external evaluation commissioned by FIFA confirms the existence of threats to human rights and press freedom in the candidate country.


This was the case with Morocco, one of the countries that was being considered as the host of the 2026 World Cup, and the three countries whose joint bid was accepted today: Mexico, the United States and Canada. In these circumstances, it is the credibility of the measures recommended by FIFA that are questionable.


Morocco, Mexico, the United States and Canada are ranked 135th, 147th, 45th and 18th respectively in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.