Sunday 10 December 2023, 19:00

UN Human Rights Day: FIFA reaffirms its commitment to human rights and anti-discrimination

  • FIFA is a leader in the world of sport when it comes to embedding human rights into its activities and relationships

  • No Discrimination campaign has run throughout the last year featuring at four tournaments

  • Social Media Protection Service shields players and officials from online abuse and hate speech

This year, Human Rights Day, Sunday December 10, will mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the international document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly that enshrines the rights and freedoms of all human beings. Since 2016, FIFA has built a strategic programme to embed respect for human rights throughout its operations and relationships, based on the UDHR. This has made FIFA a leading force in the world of sport on the respect and promotion of human rights standards.

UN Human Rights - 75

During the last year, FIFA has continued to expand its work in this area, placing an emphasis on measures to fight discrimination of all forms. One example has been the introduction of the Social Media Protection Service (SMPS), which was launched jointly with the global players’ association FIFPRO at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. Offered to all teams, players and officials, the service protects participants from online hate speech by hiding abusive comments from both them and their followers. Over the course of the tournament, it analysed 20 million posts and hid 287,000. The SMPS has now been offered at eight FIFA tournaments including the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ where it also had a significant impact with nearly 117,000 comments hidden.

The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ also saw the launch of the No Discrimination campaign with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise awareness of the devastating impact that discriminatory behaviour can have and reaffirm FIFA’s commitment to stamp it out of the game. No Discrimination has since been promoted at four FIFA tournaments, including the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ where it was supported by UN Human Rights (OHCHR). It has received backing from of some of football’s biggest advocates for inclusion such as Manchester City and Venezuela women’s international Deyna Castellanos, ex-Germany, Real Madrid and Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira and former England and Arsenal legend Ian Wright.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ was another milestone for human rights and anti-discrimination at major tournaments. In line with FIFA’s commitment to raising safeguarding standards in football, all 32 teams had a dedicated Team Safeguarding and Welfare Officer while a new safeguarding risk assessment considered the potential harm to all participants. Referees and officials were trained on FIFA safeguarding standards and reporting, as were volunteers. Away from the tournament, FIFA held a Safeguarding Summit in Zurich and over 6,000 people have now received the FIFA Guardians Safeguarding Essentials diploma.

It was also the first FIFA Women’s World Cup to promote indigenous rights. First Nations and Māori flags were flown at matches while First Nations and Māori cultures were strongly represented throughout team welcomes and on matchdays, including in ceremonies and through team captains’ armbands. An all-women Cultural Panel of leaders from First Nations Australian and Māori communities provided guidance on all relevant aspects of the tournament. To ensure that stadiums were free of offensive material, 3,870 banners, flags and other items were assessed, either via pre-match applications from spectators or at the stadium by security personnel who were advised by a human rights and anti-discrimination assessor. Referees and officials were trained to use FIFA’s three-step anti-discrimination process which allows referees to:

  • 1) stop the match

  • 2) suspend the match, and

  • 3) abandon the match in case of discriminatory behaviour in the crowd.

Fortunately, it did not have to be implemented.

Looking ahead, the FIFA World Cup 26™ will be one of the most challenging to organise yet, with a record 48 teams participating in 16 hosts cities across Mexico, the USA and Canada. To ensure that human rights are respected, FIFA has worked with all the hosts cities to establish a plan of action with each one. It has recently appointed Matt Mullen as Head of Human Rights to lead the FIFA World Cup 2026 human rights programme. In addition, human rights feature prominently in the bidding processes for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2027™ and the men’s FIFA World Cups 2030 and 2034.

Human Rights & Anti-discrimination