ILO: More decisive actions needed in Qatar

ILO Deputy Director-General Gilbert Houngbo participated in a European Parliament hearing on sports and human rights in Qatar following recent allegations concerning unacceptable working and living conditions and human rights violations affecting migrant workers involved in the preparations of the 2022 World Cup.

Press release | 13 February 2014
Watch the hearing on sports and Human rights held by the European Parliament Committee on Human Rights (For I.E. users)
BRUSSELS - Addressing the European Parliament Committee on Human Rights (DROI) in a hearing on sports and human rights, ILO Deputy Director-General Gilbert Houngbo stressed that more decisive actions are needed by the Qatari authorities.

While acknowledging that the Qatari authorities "have shown some good will", Houngbo warned of “a pick and choose approach, given the interdependence and interrelation of the various dimensions of the issues” and called for an integrated approach. “That implies working simultaneously on different issues, including migration governance, labour market governance, harmonization of policy and regulatory frameworks, and a commitment to international labour standards”, Houngbo said.

With reference to the Workers’ Charter unveiled earlier this week by Qatar's Supreme Committee, Houngbo stressed that "this document may go some way in addressing the issues being raised", but that two essential concerns remain for the ILO.

As first major concern Houngbo described "the essential nexus between actions to be taken by the Supreme Committee and actions required from the Government itself". For instance, proposals by the Supreme Committee regarding the withholding of passports and the repatriation will not be effective unless the Government translates those into national legislation and puts in place national mechanisms to enforce the law.

Secondly, Houngbo stressed "the critical importance for workers to have a voice without fear of retaliation". New measures for ethical recruitment or health and security can be put in place. "But, if workers do not have a way of expressing problems without fear, those measures will not be effective. If workers do not have a mean to raise issues happening on the ground, you can have auditing mechanisms but the reports will not reflect reality", he said.

“Without due account taken of these concerns, we, in the ILO, believe all these measures will be ineffective. And this is why we insist on an integrated approach”, Houngbo underlined, concluding that "with a clear commitment of the Qatari authorities, the ILO stands ready to work with all relevant stakeholders to overcome current challenges that can lead to success".