A call for UN Human Rights Council Special Procedures experts on sport and human rights
Human rights – and the role of sport organizations in violating or promoting human rights – have taken center stage in global sport. The Tokyo Games saw an increased attention to athletes’ freedom of expression when athletes and experts across the globe spoke out against the IOC’s Rule 50 and IPC’s Section 2.2, both of which are viewed as policies silencing athletes and limiting their right to freedom of expression. More recently, the U.S., Canada, UK and Australia have announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games due to ongoing violations of human rights in the host nation of China. Sport and human rights are inherently intertwined, and it is the intersection of the two that can lead to transformative and systemic change both in and out of the arena.
On this Human Rights Day, we are calling on the UN Human Rights Council to elevate the power of sport in promoting human rights globally by including sport in its global human rights work.
On this Human Rights Day, given the tremendous growth of work and expertise over the last decade in the space of sport and human rights, it is the time for the UN Human Rights Council to consider designating Special Procedures experts in this area. Recognizing Special Procedures experts on sport and human rights would help to further legitimize sport and human rights around the globe by raising the profile for accountability and monitoring human rights abuses and violations. We see the list of current Special Procedures Mandate Holders, and we believe that adding sport and human rights would be significant.
Special procedures are either an individual (called a "Special Rapporteur" or an "Independent Expert") or a working group composed of five members, one from each of the five United Nations regional groupings: Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and the Western group. Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and members of the Working Groups are appointed by the Human Rights Council and serve in their personal capacities.
The scope of work of Special Procedures experts is described as follows:
With the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Special Procedures:
- Undertake country visits
- Act on individual cases of alleged violations and concerns of a broader, structural nature by -sending communications to States
- Conduct thematic studies and convene expert consultations, contributing to the development of international human rights standards
- Engage in advocacy and raise public awareness
- Provide advice for technical cooperation.
The Human Rights Council indicates how Special Procedures with Thematic or Country Mandates can have an impact:
Thematic special procedures are able to positively impact human rights relevant to their respective mandate in all countries. Country mandates can create positive impact on all human rights issues in the countries they are established to address. Most importantly, both thematic and country mandates closely cooperate with States to provide them with expert advice and recommendations on implementing their international human rights obligations. Actions which may result from the presence of Special Procedures include:
- Revision of a law
- The adoption of a new policy decision
- The change in the mind-set of a country toward a specific issue
- A positive outcome for specific individuals
- The documentation and the end of a specific human rights violation or the prevention of it
- A successful contribution to UN processes such as migration or climate change
- The development of new standards
- Raising awareness about human rights issues and facilitating dialogue and advocacy on these issues.
On this Human Rights Day, this call for Special Procedures experts on sport and human rights is intended to start conversations in this respect, raise awareness, open dialogue, and inspire leadership that centers human rights in global sport. We recognize the excellent work by the Centre for Sport and Human Rights, the Sport and Rights Alliance, and the broader sport and human rights community, and feel that designating Special Procedures experts in the form of an individual and/or a working group will bolster their efforts and help further advance the collective work of advocates, educators, and organizations that are pushing for human rights in and through sport.
On this Human Rights Day, we want to recognize the progress being made to raise awareness on the broad range of issues in the realm of sports and human rights. We are hopeful that the global sport community will continue to embrace and take human rights seriously. We also hope that the human rights community will continue embrace and take sport seriously. Although a small step in the overall sport and human rights movement, the appointment of a Human Rights Council Special Procedures expert or working group on Sport and Human Rights will be a significant landmark intersection for the global sport and human rights communities.
Eli Wolff, Power of Sport Lab / University of Connecticut @eliwolff10
Dr. Mary Hums, University of Louisville @mahums
Dr. Yannick Kluch, Virginia Commonwealth University @YannickKPhD