Projekt Ziburio Fondas Litauen

World Cup: make child protection an essential part of organizing any major sporting event

One of the highlights this summer for many of us is the FIFA  World Cup in Russia. For many years, Childhood Brazil has been rasining the issue of how to protect children at major sporting events. Among other things, these efforts have resulted in a guidelines proposal that was presented to the International Olympic Committee during the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.

Exploitation in conjuction with major sporting events

The tourism industry is booming. Today, travel to distant countries is cheaper and easier than ever before. The world has become smaller and we can now visit places that would have been unthinkable destinations only one generation earlier. Travel has more than doubled over the last 20 years and, in line with this, the number of children who become exposed to abuse in connection with travel and tourism has also dramatically increased. Many indications point to risks increasing of children being exposed to abuse and exploitation in conjunction with major international sporting events. However, it is not just the stream of foreign tourists coming to sporting events that can lead to children becoming more exposed; the efforts entailed in organizing the actual event can also result in increased risk for the host country. Childhood Brazil’s report, Child Exploitation and the FIFA World Cup: a review of risks and protective interventions, the first international study conducted on the subject, lists a number of factors that lead to increased risk for children in the host countries:

  • Accelerated pace of construction with the arrival of large numbers of men who have been separated from their families, which may result in sexual exploitation;
  • High demand for temporary jobs;
  • Migration of male workers to infrastructure projects such as construction, renovations, and expansions;
  • Displacement of children from their homes to temporary and previously unknown locations;
  • Extension of school holidays or suspension of school days — due to the Games —where children are unsupervised or have no set schedule;
  • Forcing children into illegal activities, such as selling drugs and theft;
  • High levels of sexual and physical abuse due to an increased number of festive activities; and
  • Negative effects on children’s physical and mental health caused by communicable diseases if abused or forced to use drugs.

Focus on child protection before, during and following sporting events

With two such major sporting events as the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games on its home turf, over the last few years, Childhood Brazil has worked intensively with increasing child protection before, during and following major sporting events. These efforts intensified ahead of the Olympic Games in Rio, when the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee invited civil society organizations to look at putting on a more sustainable Games by adding child rights protection to the Games’ sustainability management plan. A partnership was established when the Organizing Committee invited Childhood Brazil to coordinate efforts with organizing the various national bodies that work to prevent violence against children. Among other things, this partnership resulted in proposed guidelines for the protection of children to be applied for major sporting events. Childhood Brazil together with Childhood’s founder H. M. Queen Silvia of Sweden presented the proposal to the IOC’s President Thomas Bach at the Rio Olympic Games in August 2016.

“We believe that child protection should be an essential part of the organization of the Olympic Games, or any other major sporting event for that matter, beginning with the selection of the host country. This is the only way of guaranteeing the development and implementation of effective actions to reduce child rights violations. To put it simply, protecting children should be part of the Olympic spirit.” Our objective is to ensure that protecting children’s rights is as integral a part of major sporting events as the current focus on the environmental impact of such events,” says Ana Maria Drumond, Board advisor for Childhood’s operations in Brazil.

Text: Åsa Andreasson Åkerström, photo: private