Academic journal article Suffolk Transnational Law Review

Building a New Future: The 2022 FIFA World Cup as a Potential Catalyst for Labor Reform in Qatar

Academic journal article Suffolk Transnational Law Review

Building a New Future: The 2022 FIFA World Cup as a Potential Catalyst for Labor Reform in Qatar

Article excerpt


On December 2, 2010, the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) awarded the 2022 FIFA World Cup (World Cup) to Qatar, a bold selection that shocked the international sporting community and brought scenes of jubilation to the streets of Doha. (1) Now, Qatar, the first Middle Eastern country to host the tournament, is eager to leverage the event to spur extensive economic development and redefine itself as a modern center for business and tourism. (2) Unfortunately, in its pursuit of this vision, Qatar routinely fails to adhere to International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions, which mandate the abolition of forced labor. (3) Qatar allows employers to abuse and exploit millions of migrant workers by circumventing its limited labor laws and capitalizing on its lack of adequate government oversight. (4) If Qatar does not act soon to uphold its international commitments and seriously address labor reform, there will be more migrant worker deaths from building World Cup stadia than there will be athletes competing in the entire tournament. (5)

This Note will explore how Qatar's failed international commitments, weak domestic laws, and poor government oversight facilitate the abuse and exploitation of millions of migrant workers during the construction boom leading up to the World Cup. (6) Part II of this Note will focus on the problems that migrant workers encounter in light of the respective international and domestic legal frameworks. (7) Part III of this Note will discuss the pertinent ILO conventions, as well as Qatar's current labor laws. (8) Next, Part IV of this Note will provide prescriptive ideas to end forced labor in Qatar, recommending that it adhere to ILO conventions, dramatically increase the size and authority of oversight agencies, and reform domestic labor laws. (9) Finally, Part V of this Note will conclude by underscoring that the World Cup can be a potential catalyst for labor reform and that this is an historic opportunity to help empower millions of migrant workers. (10)


A. Recent Development in Qatar

During the past decade, Qatar rapidly developed into a modern, thriving, and increasingly influential Middle Eastern nation. (11) Emir Sheikh Hammad bin Khalifa Al-Thani (the Emir), the powerful head of Qatar's constitutional monarchy, is primarily responsible for guiding the emirate's growth and bringing about this transformation. (12) Under the Emir's leadership, Qatar aggressively invested its abundant oil and gas revenues into major economic development initiatives. (13) The resulting economic prosperity disproportionately benefits Qatar's 300,000 citizens, who only account for 15% of the population. (14) Today, Qatari citizens enjoy near-universal employment in lucrative public sector positions and significant state benefits. (15) Consequently, for many Qataris, the privilege of hosting the World Cup is the culmination of a decade of progress and transition. (16)

B. The Winning World Cup Bid

The FIFA Executive Committee voted to award Qatar the World Cup after a lengthy and competitive bidding process. (17) As part of the vetting process, the FIFA Executive Committee compiled an in-depth report of the benefits and challenges facing Qatar's bid; however, the report largely overlooked the presence and treatment of migrant workers. (18) FIFA has yet to signal how it will address the migrant worker abuse in Qatar, but it has launched a serious ethical investigation into Qatar's World Cup bid following accusations of bribery and corruption related to Qatar's bid. (19) While the recent claims do not directly relate to the problems affecting migrant workers, they could lend credence to ongoing allegations that members of the FIFA Executive Committee were willing to overlook these problems--as well as other logistical issues--in exchange for bribes. (20) Qatar continues to deny any wrongdoing. (21)

In response to growing international criticism concerning Qatar's labor practices, FIFA defended its selection of Qatar and emphasized that FIFA strives to uphold respect for human rights and international norms of behavior. …

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