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towards an agreement on social rights between FIFA and the International Labor Organization?

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The Director General of the International Labor Organization (ILO) is “reasonably optimistic” regarding the conclusion of an agreement with Fifa for the consideration of social rights in the awarding of the World Cup, after criticism of the 2022 edition in Qatar.

The UN agency proposes “carry out a diligent review of candidate countries” to the organization of the competition, explained during an interview with AFP Gilbert F. Houngbo, who met Sunday, December 4 in Doha the boss of the International Football Federation (Fifa), Gianni Infantino.

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“All the discussions we have had so far lead me to believe that FIFA is more than it will be to ensure that, in the next World Cups, the question of social issues and respect for labor standards is critical “year again said Gilbert F. Houngbo, from the offices of the ILO in Qatar.

World Cup in Qatar: a journey behind the scenes

“We have been talking for several years and we want to make sure that our fruitful cooperation will continue”for his part assured Gianni Infantino in a press release published after this interview. “Strengthening the relationship between Fifa and the ILO is also part of the legacy of the 2022 World Cup”he added.

The next edition of the competition will be held in 2026 in the United States, Mexico and Canada. For the next one, in 2030, Spain and Portugal have formalized a joint candidacy with which Ukraine has joined. South America also presents a joint file (Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Chile). In September, Egypt announced that it was in consultations with Greece and Saudi Arabia.

“The world would benefit if the process of bidding and awarding the organization of the World Cup, just like the Olympics or other sports, took into account the situation in the countries in question”pleaded the former Prime Minister of Togo.

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A “double standard” against Qatar?

Since being awarded the organization of the 2022 World Cup at the end of 2010, Qatar has been under fire from criticism on the issue of human rights, and more particularly the working and living conditions of its hundreds of thousands of unskilled migrant workers from South Asia and Africa.

Gilbert F. Houngbo believes, however, that there has been “double standards, especially lately”. “I have heard harsh criticism as Qatar has done better in this area than other countries”he developed. “For us, what is very important is to recognize the work that has been done and this work was sincerely very positive. »

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The leader notably cited the dismantling of the system of “kafala”which made employees quasi-properties of their employers, the limitation of working hours during the hottest periods, the establishment of a minimum monthly salary of 1,000 riyals (about 270 euros) and dialogue “commissions” between companies and their employees.

But progress is still needed “at the level of the implementation of these reforms”did not hide the DG of the ILO, business card “continue to practice against the law”. He took as an example the compensation fund for unpaid wages set up in 2018. “Until October 2022, this Fund has paid more than 350 million [de dollars, NDLR], which demonstrates the commitment of the government but also reflects the scale of the problem”notes Gilbert F. Houngbo.

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“No credible information”

With figures ranging from 414 deaths between 2014 and 2020, on the Qatari side, to several thousand since 2010, on the NGO side, the total number of deaths in work accidents in the emirate during the preparations for the World Cup is also questionable.

“I think the public needs to know the truth and sometimes that truth is to say that, frankly, there is no credible information”commented the boss of the organization.

The World Cup in Qatar, how many deaths?

“In the next phase of our cooperation with the Qatari authorities, we will put a lot of emphasis on the issue of data collection and analysis”announces Houngbo.

The presence of the ILO in Doha since 2018 must be preserved in 2023. “We are going to make the office permanent not only to continue the work we are doing here but possibly also to cover the region or even beyond”a precise conductor.

About the next edition of the World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026, this does not see “Presumably no problem” corn “This does not prevent us from remaining vigilant”he promised.

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