Panel discussion on the possibility of using sport and the Olympic ideal to promote human rights for all, including persons with disabilities
As delivered by Ambassador Keith Harper
U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council
32nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
June 28, 2016
History has shown that large-scale sporting events, no matter where they are hosted, have the potential to help improve human rights and labor conditions for individuals whose lives are touched by the games.
Yet, we’ve also seen that without adequate protections for persons with disabilities, journalists and social media users, migrant workers, LGBTI persons, women and children, members of racial minorities and indigenous communities, and other vulnerable and at-risk groups, these mega-sporting events can also lead to adverse human rights impacts, including forced displacement, exploitation, discrimination, and arbitrary detention.
I commend the Office of the High Commissioner and the lead sponsors, including Brazil, as the next host of the Olympic Games, for convening this panel. The United States Government has long been committed to fostering the positive influence sports can have in advancing human rights, international labor standards, educational and cultural exchange, and equality for all.
Given the keen public interest in preserving the benefits of the world’s preeminent international sporting events, we have a clear opportunity to do something positive to address ongoing challenges in this space.
That’s why the United States is part of an unprecedented joint initiative with governments, NGOs, trade union federations, sports governing bodies, and corporate sponsors—many of which are in this room—to explore mechanisms for integrating respect for human rights and international labor standards into the life-cycle of mega-sporting events. We encourage all interested stakeholders to engage in this initiative to help ensure its success.