The award of the Football World Cup has been a catalyst for human rights change in Qatar writes Emily Barley, and similar pressure now needs to be applied to other nations across the Middle East. When FIFA announced back in 2010 that Qatar would host the Qatar World Cup 2022, criticism of the small Gulf country was immediately apparent.
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Since then, resentment over the conditions in which many Qatari migrant workers live and work has grown and the country has become a taboo subject. Human rights organizations and the media have regularly reported on suffering, illness, and death among employees, as well as heart attacks caused by burnout.
So it was a surprise when last month the EU applauded Qatar in its annual report on democracy and human rights. The report commended Qatar’s progress in many areas, including changes in labor laws, disbandment of the kafala system which bound workers to employers and was the source of many harassments, the introduction of a national minimum wage, and new ways for workers to succeed reports the harassment, and the first national election in the Shura Council advising the Emir.
This new analysis of the situation suggests that the advanced analysis that comes with Qatar’s bid for a successful FIFA World Cup is likely to make a difference. Public outrage, diplomatic pressure, the will to change, and practical support combined to build progress. In all these respects, the partnership between the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Qatar in the technological partnership program, which was launched in 2017, has probably made a huge difference.
This is in line with the clear purpose of reforming the labor law, in which international experts are working closely with Qatari officials to deliver reforms, with fruitful results. The ILO now counts among its success the changes in the labor law highlighted in the EU report, as well as the progress in health and safety at work.
These advances include the reporting of occupational hazards and safety changes to them, new heat stress measures that prevent outdoor activities during the hottest days of the day during the summer and at any time temperatures rise above the safe level, training and expansion of government law enforcement and law enforcement teams; and work to educate workers including domestic workers about their rights and how to seek help when they need it.
Harassment, especially of immigrant workers, is a common theme throughout the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East. Countries with a lot of oil and gas resources have organized their economies to feed their people with a high standard of living while bringing in workers from poorer countries to work in construction, agriculture, hospitality, and the local area.
As expected, these two-tier communities have led to the exploitation of the so-called less than, poor working conditions and poor living conditions, little or no individual independence of immigrants, and legal entities that widen the gap between what they have and what they have. They do not have it by binding employees and their visas to employers who often abuse the kafala system. For more to know about Qatar World Cup tickets Click here.
While the rest of the region remains as it has been, Qatar has continued with its rapid, comprehensive reforms recommended in the EU report as an example for other countries in the region to follow. Without the sunlight and reflection that comes with Qatar’s successful FIFA World Cup 2022 application, it is quite possible that none of this progress would have been possible.
When we look at the world’s closest neighbors, the difference is obvious. In Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, kafala is still very active, with similar laws in place in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. The debt should also be given to Qatari officials who have witnessed international abandonment and instead of denying or withdrawing it as many other countries have done in the past, they choose to negotiate the matter and offer greater resources and effort to make a difference.
Work is not complete in Qatar, human rights organizations continue to highlight ongoing problems and abuses, and the ILO and Qatari officials themselves are setting a series of steps toward reform. Perhaps the most urgent of these is law enforcement, the country already has a law to protect immigrant workers, but many employers continue to ignore it.
A small force of inspectors needs to be trained and established to work, and national judges need to be involved and ensure that the law is applied equitably and impartially. In this case, the whole world has a role to play. Companies based in Europe and the US are among those allegedly continuing to violate workers’ rights and violations of the law.
The naming and minor embarrassment of human rights organizations to promote social pressure will not go unnoticed. But more importantly, campaigners and policymakers recognize the role of important friends. Transparency, honesty, and criticism of harassment combined with practical and technical support to improve the situation are more effective than simply roaring from the sidelines.
Some are still pushing for the FIFA World Cup to be canceled, despite growing evidence that the tournament has had a positive impact and a lasting legacy for Qatar immigrant workers. Anyone interested in making progress should be invested in rewarding what they have already achieved, as well as ensuring that after the final whistle at the Qatar World Cup 2022, an in-depth analysis continues with further progress to the same.
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