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Roundtable on human rights and mega sporting events in the Commonwealth

Business and Human Rights
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Roundtable on human rights and mega sporting events in the Commonwealth

On 31 October 2016 the Australian Human Rights Commission and KPMG co-hosted a roundtable on human rights and mega sporting events in the Commonwealth on 31 October 2016 in Sydney.

The Roundtable built on the outcomes of the recent “Sporting Chance Forum on Mega-Sporting Events and Human Rights” held in Washington DC and other initiatives to bring a human rights approach to mega sporting events, or MSE (see below).

The event brought together business, sporting, government and civil society stakeholders to discuss the challenges and opportunities in integrating human rights in major sporting events in Australia and the Commonwealth more broadly.

The diversity and expertise of the roundtable’s participants enabled discussion that offered different perspectives on human rights and MSE by representatives of sponsors, affected groups (athletes and communities) and sports governing bodies.

The event included an opening panel discussion and three practical workshop sessions, which explored commitment, challenges and opportunities in integrating human rights considerations in the planning and delivery of mega sporting events in the Commonwealth.


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Photo: From left: Lynne Anderson, CEO, Australian Paralympic Committee; John Morrison, Chief Executive, Institute for Human Rights and Business; Richard Boele, Partner, KPMG; Gillian Triggs, President, Australian Human Rights Commission; Sam Mostyn, corporate director and former AFL Commissioner; and Commissioner Kevin Cox, Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission.

More than 15 speakers shared their knowledge and experience, with valuable contributions also made by participants concerning challenges and possible solutions.

Speakers included:

  • David Grevemberg, Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Games Federation (via teleconference)
  • John Morrison, Chief Executive of the Institute for Human Rights and Business
  • David Rutherford, New Zealand’s Chief Human Rights Commissioner
  • Mark Peters, Chief Executive of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation
  • Sam Mostyn, Corporate Director and former AFL Commissioner
  • Brendan Schwab, ‎Head of UNI World Athletes at UNI Global Union

The roundtable demonstrated immense interest in the application of human rights to sporting events, not only just within the Commonwealth Games context, but also in relation to sporting events and activities held locally and internationally.

Participants agreed that to realise human rights in the context of mega sporting events collective action is required. Stakeholders from a range of sectors should be engaged in order to forge shared solutions to address human rights challenges that are beyond the capacity of any single stakeholder to resolve.

Australia as a sporting nation has many opportunities to use the learnings from the roundtable discussion and apply them to increasing number of sporting events as well as embed human rights considerations in sport generally.

The Australian Human Rights Commission is committed to continuing discussion and building partnerships in this area to ensure sports not only respect human rights, but also to promote opportunities for sporting events to serve as platforms for the promotion of human rights broadly within communities.

You can watch the Roundtable's opening panel session through our live streaming video here.







Mega sporting events (MSE) have a great potential to serve as a force for good and to advance respect for, protection and promotion of international human rights standards. While there are opportunities for positive change, there are also challenges at every stage of the lifecycle of MSE. A single sporting event can be complex, encompassing the full spectrum of human rights risks through land use, procurement, supply chain management, labour conditions, security and participation of diverse communities including Indigenous peoples, LGBTI people and people with disability.

Since the first human rights conference on mega-sporting events in Sydney in 1999 there have been a number of efforts to make human rights due diligence central to the planning and delivery of MSE, with momentum growing significantly in recent years.

Human rights in Commonwealth Games

The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games was the first MSE to adopt a human rights policy, and also the first Commonwealth Games to achieve ISO 20121 status, which is the gold standard for sustainability in large-scale events. Glasgow 2014 was also viewed as an opportunity to put the values of the Charter of the Commonwealth into practice. Signed in early 2013, the Charter among other things stated that the Commonwealth is “implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds” (see:

What has been achieved in Glasgow can now serve as a great starting point for the next Commonwealth Games, which will be at the Gold Coast in 2018.

The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games will be the largest sporting event for Australia in this decade and present an opportunity for Australia to play a leadership role in furthering respect for, protection and promotion of human rights through MSE and create a legacy for the planning and delivery of future MSE in the Commonwealth.

International developments

There have been a number of initiatives and discussions internationally on the topic of mega sporting events and human rights in the last twelve months.

In November 2015 the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) convened the first-ever Session on Mega Sporting Events and Human Rights at the UN Annual Forum on Business & Human Rights.

A month after, IHRB, Wilton Park and the Government of Switzerland organised the Wilton Park conference on Human Rights and Mega-Sporting Events (MSEs). This event brought together international experts with a collective global reach to more than 100 sport federations, 155 national business federations, 180 million workers and 10,000 athletes.

In October 2016 IHRB, the U.S. Department of State, and Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs co-hosted the global “Sporting Chance Forum on Mega-Sporting Events and Human Rights” on 13th-14th October 2016 in Washington, D.C. The Forum convened more than 130 senior officials, executives, and experts to highlight and devise effective strategies to address the human rights challenges associated with mega-sporting events at every stage of the event lifecycle, from planning through legacy.

The Forum introduced the Sporting Chance Principles on Human Rights in Mega-Sporting Events, which aim to underpin the common goal of ensuring that mega-sporting events showcasing the best in humanity are built on respect for human rights throughout their lifecycle.