Olympic sponsors must push for human rights, report recommends

Do sponsors have a responsibility to work for human rights? Photo: agroffman/Flickr


By Søren Bang
Leading up to the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Swedish human rights watchdog Swedwatch has put the focus on the Olympics sponsors’ responsibility to work for human rights in Olympic host countries.

(Updated 4 February 2014)

Criticising the present Olympic Charter, the report, which is based on interviews with the Swedish NOC and its top sponsors, concludes that the Olympic Movement could take on a much more offensive strategy on human rights.

“The problem is that even if the Charter states that the Olympic Movement seeks to promote peace and human dignity, it does not refer to any internationally recognised documents that define what this means. The Olympic Movement has also failed to define how the principles should be given strength in the contracts that the IOC signs with the host cities,” the report notes.

Referring particularly to the criticised human rights situation in Russia, Swedwatch recommends that the Olympic movement in the future adopt a human rights policy, which relates to the UN conventions on human rights as well as the International Labour Organization’s core conventions on the labour standards.

The Olympic sponsors should push for this to happen, Swedwatch argues. The report criticises the Swedish Olympic sponsors for having acted passively so far despite the overall trend among Swedish companies, including some of the biggest Olympic sponsors, taking more responsibility for human rights issues in their entire operations and supply chain.

However, Swedwatch also acknowledges that the biggest sponsors indicated their commitment to putting more emphasis on human rights issues in the future during and after the preparation of the report.

After a meeting between the Swedish NOC (SOK) and its three top sponsors, Vattenfall, Nordea and ATG, following the release of Swedwatch's report, the parties agreed on a public statement concluding:

"We agree on the need for specific requirements of future Olympic hosts also when it comes to ethics and human rights, social and economic responsibility. With clear requirements, the ability to monitor the implementation and evaluate the long-term consequences will increase. SOK will include this issue in its dialogue with the IOC."

Read Swedwatch’s press release and download the report (in English):

Link to press release from SOK and its sponsors (in Swedish):


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