Scotland leads Commonwealth in developing human rights policy for Games

Major sporting events can have a big impact on human rights, in many ways, both good and bad. As Glasgow gears up to host this summer’s Commonwealth Games, the Scottish Human Rights Commission has been working with the Games Organising Committee, and other partners, to address important human rights concerns and to help make the Glasgow Games an example for others to follow.

Building on over a year of collaboration with the Commission, the Glasgow Games Organising Committee has, for the first time in over 80 years of Commonwealth Games history, adopted a human rights policy for the Games. The policy sets out how human rights have been, and will be, protected and promoted in the preparation and delivery of the Glasgow Games, including respecting freedoms, promoting participation and adopting a sustainable procurement policy.

As the independent body set up by law to protect and promote human rights in Scotland, the Commission welcomes the Glasgow Games as an important opportunity to embed the values of respect, diversity, tolerance and fairness that underpin all of our human rights. The Games also highlight the role that business can play in contributing to a society that respects human rights.

The Organising Committee approached the Commission in early 2013 asking us for advice about human rights issues concerning the Glasgow Games. We were delighted to do this. To start with, we wrote to the Organising Committee setting out important human rights concerns for the Games including:

Forced evictions – when people are made to give up their homes to make way for venues and athletes’ accommodation.

Forced labour and trafficking – when people are brought to Scotland and submitted to exploitative labour conditions.

Procurement – how the money that is spent on the Games can be used to buy goods and services from businesses that uphold high standards of human rights protection.

Policing and security – how to protect the public’s security while respecting personal freedom.

The Games’ legacy – how Scotland can be a beacon to future Games when it comes to upholding high standards of human rights protection.

Then, we worked with the Organising Committee to encourage them to adopt a comprehensive human rights policy for the Glasgow Games where we encouraged the Organising Committee to discuss the potential for the Games to affect people’s rights.

Building on this, in October 2013, we held a conference, "Responsibility and Rights”, sponsored by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and jointly hosted by the Institute for Business and Human Rights, Anti-Slavery International and the Commission. The conference brought together policy makers, academics, trade unions and sports experts, well as the Scottish Minister for the Commonwealth Games and Sport.

David Grevemberg, the Chief Executive of Glasgow 2014, used the conference to commit, publicly, to developing a human rights policy for the Glasgow Games. Since then, the Commission has provided comments on this policy and incorporated this work into Scotland’s first National Action Plan for Human Rights, launched in December 2013.

As the international sporting world’s attention turns to Glasgow in August, we hope that the Games will be seen as a success for Scotland, both for sport and for the rights that we should all be able to enjoy. This would be an important legacy for future "mega events" both at home and internationally.