The IOC committed to collective and proactive action on human rights protection

30 Nov 2017
IOC News IOC President

IOC President Thomas Bach delivered a keynote speech at the Sporting Chance Forum 2017 in Geneva, on Thursday. Organised this year by the Swiss Government and the Institute for Human Rights and Business, the Forum brings together all the leading representatives of governments, UN agencies, sports governing bodies, host cities, trade unions, non-governmental organisations, sponsors and broadcasters, as well as the International Olympic Committee.


The Sporting Chance Forum is a platform to discuss the respective human rights duties and responsibilities of the participating organisations. The Forum also highlights the work done through the Mega Sports Events (MSE) Platform. MSE is an emerging multi-stakeholder coalition of various governmental and non-governmental organisations involved in the preparation and hosting of such events, and presents new tools developed for different actors in the industry. 

Speaking at the Forum, President Bach underlined that the IOC is committed to improving the protection, promotion and respect of human rights, in particular, as these relate to the Olympic Games’ organisation. 

“Human rights are in fact firmly anchored in the Olympic Charter,” said President Bach. “Therefore, our mission to put sport at the service of humanity goes hand-in-hand with human rights. In Olympic sport, all people are equal, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, social status, cultural background or belief. This principle of non-discrimination allows sport to promote peace and understanding among all people because the same rule applies to everybody,” he added.

Human rights are in fact firmly anchored in the Olympic Charter. Therefore, our mission to put sport at the service of humanity goes hand-in-hand with human rights. Thomas Bach IOC President

“We have recently made changes to the host city contract, which now includes a specific section designed to strengthen and protect human rights. The obligations now include that human rights are respected in line with international agreements and standards, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” the IOC President continued.  


Also speaking at the Forum was the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, who praised ‘the IOC for updating the Host City Contract for 2024 so it includes explicit obligations consistent with Human Rights principles”.  He added, “I would also like to acknowledge the excellent working relationship with the International Olympic Committee.”

From the International Labour Organisation, the Director General, Guy Ryder said a lot of progress had been made, and he thanked organisations including the IOC for “putting labour rights at the heart of their events”.  He mentioned a recent agreement with the Organising Committee for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on socially responsible labour practices amongst the Games delivery partners. He also noted that the IOC had been working with the ILO “to ensure its sustainability strategy has ‘decent work’ as one of its priority areas as a basis to choose its candidate cities”.

Beyond the Olympic Games themselves, the IOC has been working to develop robust and detailed policies applicable to gender equality with several partners, including UN Women, on mainstreaming sport as a tool for girls’ and women’s empowerment in the organisation and across the Olympic Movement. A Charter of Athlete Rights and Responsibilities will come to fruition under the IOC Athletes’ Commission’s new “All In” Strategy in 2018. It will address both the rights and responsibilities of athletes as well as those of organisations.

As part of the forward trajectory of this growing collective action initiative for 2018 and beyond, the MSE Steering Committee, of which the IOC is a member, announced its plans to establish an independent Centre for Sport and Human Rights. The Centre should work with all actors to share knowledge, build capacity and increase accountability around human rights protection in mega sports events. Sports governing bodies, federations, clubs, governments, local organising committees, sponsors, broadcasters, other commercial partners as well as affected groups will have a key role to play in this future Centre.

In the context of the human rights and sports-related events of this week in Geneva, IOC President Thomas Bach met also the representatives of the Sport and Rights Alliance (SRA), which includes among other organisations Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Terre des Hommes, and UNI World Athletes. Both parties agreed to reinforce dialogue and cooperation on human rights and sports.

Read the IOC President’s speech 

To read the joint statement of the steering committee on the Centre for Sport & Human Rights, please click here 

For further information about the Forum, please click here

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