The Kick-Off of the Most Controversial World Cup in History

An explanation of the World Cup controversies

As of today, the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 has started. An event that has brought strong criticism, firstly because of allegations of bribery and corruption in the selection process, additionally because of the treatment of foreign workers involved in preparation for the World Cup. In the series Qatar: beyond the football” of The Guardian, you can dig into twelve years of reporting on the issues around the Qatar World Cup. According to Amnesty International, on sites both connected and unconnected to the World Cup, migrant workers (which make up more than 90% of Qatar’s population) have encountered, among other things, “unbearable and dangerous working and living conditions, with thousands of workers’ deaths remaining unexplained”. So, didn’t anyone try to stop this?

Even though human rights organisations, such as Human Rights Watch, tried to make Qatar and FIFA take action on the human rights violations, this was unfortunately to no avail. Finally, on Wednesday 08 November 2017 at its 331st session, on the complaint concerning the failure of the Government of Qatar to protect migrant workers’ rights (submitted to the International Labour Conference in 2014), the ILO Governing Body and the Government of Qatar agreed on a comprehensive 3-year ILO technical cooperation programme. In this programme, the Government of Qatar and the ILO decided to cooperate and realise fundamental principles and rights at work, in line with international labour standards. It aimed to, among other things, end the kafala system and strengthen labour inspection and occupational safety and health standards. The framework of cooperation aimed to institute change that would protect workers’ rights (especially as laid down in the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) and the Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81)) for the longer term, in line with Qatar’s National Development Strategy 2017-2022. More about this can be read in the article: “ILO Governing Body welcomes Qatar’s commitment to bolster migrant worker rights”.

Remarkable is the fact that the cooperation programme put an end to an ILO complaint procedure against Qatar. The complaint procedure is the ILO’s highest-level investigative procedure and is generally set up when a member State is accused of committing persistent and serious violations and has repeatedly refused to address them. To date, only 14 complaint procedures have been established. 

Maybe it is even more remarkable that this complaint was already submitted to the International Labour Conference in 2014, but in an Examination of Amnesty International of the progress of Qatar over the past decade, the conclusion is still that human rights abuses persist on a significant scale. In the article “four years of labour reforms in Qatar”, the ILO outlines progress made and the challenges that remain in the implementation of Qatar’s labour reforms. Therefore Amnesty International states that even though the road to the World Cup has reached its destination, Qatar’s journey to full and effective protection of worker’s rights still has a great distance to go.


For general information and updates about the ILO Qatar, visit this page.

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