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What are the challenges that U.N. and sports are facing? with Laurent Sauveur from OHCHR
What are the challenges that UN and sports are facing? with Laurent Sauveur
Laurent Sauveur from OHCHR
Laurent Sauveur from OHCHROHCHR

SiS- Laurent, thanks for sharing time with us, first and foremost, please let us know more about OHCHR and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ?

LS- OHCHR – aka UN Human Rights – is the leading organisation within the UN galaxy to protect and promote human rights of everyone, everywhere. We are headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and have a presence of about 1200 staff in over 70 countries. We work with governments and all actors of societies to make human rights a reality in people’s life.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which turned 70 in 2018, is a powerful document. Drafted by representatives of diverse legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration sets out universal values and a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. It establishes the equal dignity and worth of every person. Thanks to the Declaration, and States’ commitments to its principles, the dignity of millions has been uplifted and the foundation for a more just world has been laid.

Athens 2004 Paralympic Games
Athens 2004 Paralympic GamesUN

SiS- Sports being a reflection of society, what are the challenges that are facing sport stakeholders more than 70 years after the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ?

LS- The challenges depend a lot on the context. Major sporting events pose risks in connection with construction (workers health and safety, wages, removal of surrounding communities, crack down on protesters and Human Rights Defenders), elite sports give rise to health related risks (eg. pressure to use drugs, trafficking of minors with potential etc), whereas local sport, even down to the community levels, face risks such as child abuse, gender and LGBTI discrimination etc. And at all levels we are seeing racial discrimination and xenophobia being part of sport events. All this risks are detracting from the opportunities presented by sport to unite people around shared values.

SiS- What is the role of athletes to foster Human Rights ? In that sense, what are, to you, key historical moments that had a positive impact on Human Rights and Society in Sport ?

LS- Athletes are essential to any sport and as idols/role models for large swaths of society who may not otherwise be tuned into human rights discourse, renowned athletes can be important ambassadors for rights. Over time, there have been numerous examples of athletes taking a stand on social justice issues, eg. the US footballers “taking a knee” to protest against police brutality against African-Americans. The current case about South African sprinter Caster Semenya is another example where human rights is at the core of a sport related dispute.

Rugby Love
Rugby LoveGoogle

SiS- Big events like Olympics, FIFA World Cup and others try to be a showcase of the "best of the best", how do you think these events could innovate to foster Human Rights ? What would be the priorities ?

LS- The biggest challenge for major sport events is to effectively manage the risk of adverse human rights impacts linked to their events. Positive innovation has and can be done relatively easily, but it has tended to be rather selective around specific issues and considered mostly as a PR exercise. However, the more granular work of identifying and mitigating risks, like for example construction-related risks, gender inequality and lack of access for persons with disabilities or racial profiling of audiences, is a much more comprehensive exercise which involves taking key strategic and policy decision from the top and throughout the organisation of an event. FIFA, while still facing major challenges, is currently in the lead amongst major sports governing bodies when it comes to managing human rights. The IOC governing council last week decided to embark on a similar process. In other words, progress is happening, though there is still a way to go. An important initiative is the establishment of a new Centre for Sport and Human Rights, which is supported by representatives from sports, athletes, unions, international organisations, and civil society, and aims to work collaboratively in addressing these issues.

New stadium
New stadiumUN

SiS - Your organisation has been active to use sport to promote Human Rights, could you tell us more about that? And what are your challenges now ?

LS- Globally, defence of the universal values of human rights is neither consistent nor robust. Human rights are often regarded as somehow out of touch with reality, or worse, an obstacle to pragmatic resolution of the problems about which people care most. To counter the push back against human rights, shift attitudes, and manage the radical changes that societies are experiencing, our message is simple: we all have a role to play – we can all be human rights defenders. In the workplace, at school, at home, in public transport, on the sport field, we can all make a difference by standing up for these universal values.

SiS- Anything else you would like to share with us?

LS- It is essential for the United Nations to reach a broader audience to convey the human rights message and as a former tennis and football player, I am keen on developing our partnerships with the sports industry, which can be a powerful ally to achieve our objective. 

Jeese Lovejoy at Beyond Innovation SummitBeyond Innovation Summit
Craig Spence, International Paralympic Committee Chief Marketing & Communications Officer.SiS
Hervé Andre-Benoit, FISE Founder and Hurricane Group CEOSiS
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