The World Cup Can Highlight Human Rights Issues. It Can’t Solve Them

The World Cup Can Highlight Human Rights Issues. It Can’t Solve Them
Two workers clean a street in front of skyscrapers affixed with giant banner images of soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Andre Ayew and Dusan Tadic, in Doha, Qatar, Nov. 29, 2022 (AP photo by Martin Meissner).

DOHA, Qatar—As the 2022 FIFA World Cup enters its knockout rounds, Doha has become quieter than it was during the tournament’s group stage, when fans of every participating country were visible on the streets and their presence and celebrations brought color to a typically tranquil environment. The subdued atmosphere surrounding the matches in the tournament’s knockout stage increasingly mirrors the waning public debate around geopolitical issues—particularly Qatar’s poor human rights record—that received significant attention in the runup to the World Cup and during the tournament’s first two weeks.

But the diminished intensity of the debate does not suggest that the issues that were raised have vanished or lost salience.

The conditions of migrant laborers employed in Qatar generated a lot of outrage, particularly but not exclusively from international human rights organizations almost immediately after Qatar was selected in 2010 to host the World Cup. In the runup to this year’s tournament, there were conflicting reports over the number of deaths of migrant workers hired to build stadiums and other infrastructure. But there was general consensus about the poor conditions in which they worked to build the infrastructure needed for the tournament. Qatar has taken steps to improve conditions for migrant workers in the country such as by replacing the so-called kafala system with contract-based employment, but many of them continue to work 10 hours a day, six days a week, while earning as little as $2 an hour

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review