“A total of three people died in the construction of World Cup stadiums”


FIFA human rights expert“A total of three people died in the construction of World Cup stadiums”

World soccer association Fifa and the sometimes precarious human rights situation in Qatar are at loggerheads over the upcoming World Cup. What exactly is the organization doing about it?

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Switzerland’s Andreas Graf is FIFA’s leading expert on human rights.



As “Head of Human Rights & Anti-Discrimination”, he is responsible for planning and implementing measures in the areas of labor law, anti-discrimination, disabled access for fans and freedom of the press.

IMAGO/Panoramic International

The 36-year-old is already in Qatar, where he will work on various measures during the World Cup.

The 36-year-old is already in Qatar, where he will work on various measures during the World Cup.


It’s about it

  • FIFA has long been criticized for awarding and hosting the World Cup in Qatar.

  • But how does world football’s governing body actually take up its responsibilities in the host country?

  • He conducted a 20-minute interview with the “head of human rights and anti-discrimination”.

  • Andreas Graf, who holds the position: “I have to ensure that the rights of those affected by FIFA’s activities are protected.”

The FIFA World Cup kicks off in Qatar on Sunday. There is probably no other opportunity in the world where so many people have an opinion. This also applies to criticism of the human rights record in the disputed host country. The world association Fifa has often been lambasted for awarding the World Cup to a desert nation, often it is responsible for.

What is the organization doing to improve the situation in Qatar? And what accusations does he distance himself from? He talked about it with Andreas Graf for 20 minutes. The 36-year-old Swiss is FIFA’s “head of human rights and anti-discrimination”.

Andreas Graf, what are your tasks?

My job and that of my team is to ensure that the rights of those affected by Fifa’s activities are protected.

We constantly analyze risks, including in close cooperation with trade unions and civil society organizations. We will then implement appropriate measures to address the risks.

You are already in Doha. what are you busy with?

Supported by around 60 people from partner organizations and 240 volunteers, our team of around 40 full-time staff from Fifa and our Qatari partners focuses on four areas: employment law, anti-discrimination, accessibility for fans and freedom of the press. We are also implementing a complaints mechanism so that we can respond directly to issues.

What do you do at the local level in relation to labor law?

During the tournament we have our own labor inspection program together with our local partners. Companies involved in World Cup-related services will be audited. In addition, our partner in Qatar has implemented a comprehensive labor inspection program on World Cup construction sites since 2013, and over the past three years we have also regularly inspected a total of 170 hotels in the country in cooperation with unions and international labor organizations.

By what standards does FIFA assess human rights and discrimination issues?

FIFA’s commitment to human rights is based on internationally recognized human rights, which is in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This international standard is our benchmark. If gaps exist at the national level, we consider it our responsibility to use as much of our influence as possible to close them in relation to our activities.

“The UN or the International Labor Organization have praised the World Cup measures on various occasions.”

Andrew Graf

Criticism of the world football association before the World Cup in Qatar is great. What is Qatar’s main problem?

Any event of this magnitude is fraught with problems. For example, in the case of Qatar, in the area of ​​labor rights, there have been various situations where it was necessary to intervene in order for companies to comply with our standards.

We managed to establish a higher standard in the construction of the World Cup. This is also recognized by the unions, which since 2017 have been carrying out regular inspections on construction sites. From the first inspection, they brought the safety standards at the World Cup construction sites on par with those in Switzerland. The measures of the World Cup have been praised on various occasions by the United Nations and the International Labor Organization.

Nevertheless, the shocking number of up to 6,500 guest workers who have died has been circulating for a long time.

Every death is a tragedy. It is all the more important to stick to the facts in the discussion. There is always talk of 15,000 or 6,500 dead in World Cup constructions. However, these are general national death figures. 15,000 is the number of all foreigners who have died in Qatar in the last ten years, 6,500 refers to expatriates from five Southeast Asian countries in the same period. A total of around two million foreigners live in Qatar. It has nothing to do with the construction of stadiums yet.

How high is the death toll in stadium construction?

A total of three people have lost their lives as a result of tragic work accidents on the construction sites of World Cup stadiums. A further 37 people involved in the construction of the stadiums died during this period from causes believed to be non-work related. These figures are largely undisputed and not disputed by Amnesty International, for example.

He had a video call with Andreas Graf for 20 minutes.

He had a video call with Andreas Graf for 20 minutes.

Screenshot of Microsoft TEAMS

How do you know such numbers?

Together with our organizing partners of the World Cup in Qatar, a team of experienced international experts, we had a good overview of the situation on the construction sites. When a death occurs on a construction site, it makes waves and triggers a complex administrative process.

Why is this misinformation so persistent?

It is actually incomprehensible to me how it could become so independent and remain in the public discourse for years.

How do you feel about being a World Cup ambassador for homosexuality? damage in the brain determined?

Fifa’s position is clear that all fans, including those from the LGBTIQ community, must be welcome and safe at the World Cup. To this end, we have taken a number of concrete measures, starting with the introduction of a legal basis to protect everyone to very specific agreements to deal with certain situations. We also implement various projects to identify discriminatory incidents in stadiums and train everyone involved in the organization of the World Cup in anti-discrimination.

“One or two raised eyebrows already exist.

Andrew Graf

So does the World Cup in Qatar actually bring progress?

The FIFA World Cup in Qatar is widely regarded as one of the few examples of a sporting event actually bringing human rights reforms to a country through the global spotlight.

Is there a country where under no circumstances would Fifa host a World Cup?

In 2017, FIFA introduced human rights conditions for all tournament prizes. The approach is that all countries can apply, but they must meet these conditions.

Are you personally often criticized for your position?

There’s already been an eyebrow or two raised. But mostly people are mainly interested in what we actually do. And as a rule, they are also impressed when they find out more about what Fifa is doing in this area. Unfortunately, this work is not well known to the general public.

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