Network based systems

Global network to fight against sexual abuse in sport planned by Fifa and the United Nations agency | Soccer

A global investigative network to tackle sexual abuse in all sports is due to be established by Fifa and a United Nations agency next year following scandals in Afghanistan and Haiti exposed by the Guardian.

Details of the plans are contained in a report commissioned by Fifa and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in response to what he described as “the difficult lessons of complex, devastating and serious sexual abuse in Afghanistan and in Haitian football ”.

In addition to providing “reliable and accessible hotlines” for reporting abuse in sport, the new body would include the creation of a “global network of investigators” that would work with local law enforcement and Interpol to bring the perpetrators to justice. He also proposed the introduction of improved integrity checks “to prevent perpetrators from moving between jurisdictions and sports” and the provision of “support for victims, witnesses and whistleblowers”.

But Human Rights Watch and the international players’ union Fifpro questioned whether Fifa was the right body to set up the network, and criticized its record in tackling cases of abuse.

Former Afghan FA President Keramuudin Karim was suspended for life by the Fifa Ethics Committee in June 2019 after being found guilty of physically and sexually abusing several young female national team players . In Haiti Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haiti FA, was banned for life in November 2020 by the ethics committee for harassment and sexual abuse of players, including minors. Both scandals were exposed by the Guardian.

A Fifa spokesperson said: “The aim is to establish an independent, multi-sport, multi-agency international entity to help sports judicial bodies to investigate and appropriately manage cases of abuse in using a survivor-centered approach. “

The final report was sent to over 230 stakeholders, including the UK government and international sports federations last month. Fifa has since appointed an independent secretariat, a spokesperson for whom told the Guardian was “mandated to form a representative working group of experts from around the world with the various skills required to establish the new entity in the second half of the year. 2022 “.

According to the report, which was prepared by the Swiss company Beutler International Sports Advisory, the International Safe Sport Agency (ISSA) and the International Safe Sport Center (ISSC) are the two names being considered ”.

The report indicates that the potential locations of the new body could be the Netherlands, France, Nairobi, the Middle East or Singapore, but leans towards Switzerland, noting: “Switzerland is the seat of 45 international sports federations ( FI), including FIFA, as well as the International Olympic Committee (IOC), United Nations agencies (UN) and many humanitarian organizations.

The report praised Fifa for its role “as a catalyst in global discussions” on combating sexual abuse and praised it for “providing expert investigation and treatment support.”

“The commitment of FIFA President Gianni Infantino to ensuring that this entity becomes a reality and truly meets the needs of victims / survivors has been unwavering throughout the consultation process,” he adds. “Management commitment will be essential to its success. “

Fifa President Gianni Infantino is congratulated in the report commissioned by the world football governing body and the UN. Photograph: Nick Potts / PA

However, Minky Worden, who is director of global initiatives for Human Rights Watch and participated in the consultation process, questioned Fifa’s ability to lead the entity following its handling of cases in Afghanistan and Haiti.

“While HRW certainly participated in the Safe Sports Entities Consultation Report, the reporting does not in any way mean that the underlying issues are being addressed,” she said. “The entity was a direct response to reports of abuse by survivors in Afghanistan and Haiti, but Fifa announced that it was partnering with UNODC – and only subsequently consulted those in ‘between us who directly collect evidence of sexual abuse caused by lack of protection. children and athletes and the bad governance controls that already exist.

“Fifa does not have a suitable system to heal and protect survivors – even when given the chance to do it right, the system is still very unfavorable to survivors.”

A Fifpro statement said: “It is positive that Fifa has started the process to achieve such a goal. However, for a new entity to be an improvement, it must honestly and firmly address existing procedural flaws. In our overwhelming experience, football players do not report abuse because the in-game reporting mechanisms are too closely tied to the power structures that allow the abuse. Put simply, they don’t trust the process to be fair and safe, and they don’t believe that it will rigorously investigate everyone who participated in, facilitated or ignored the abuse.

“Therefore, any new safe sport entity must demonstrate its ability and willingness to hold perpetrators and facilitators to account. He has to prove that he is completely trustworthy and that he will ensure that the painful reporting process is as manageable as possible for courageous gamers who raise their voices. “

Karim and Jean-Bart were also each fined 1 million Swiss francs (£ 827,000) as part of their sanction, though Fifa’s education and social responsibility officer Joyce Cook told CNN in October that he did not “see these fines being paid”. “And we have no way of enforcing that because, you know, we have to sanction individuals,” she admitted.

“We are offering additional support to help facilitate a legal process that will take place in Haiti. This is another lesson we have learned from Afghanistan, which still remains an open challenge. We have banned the perpetrator for life, but he is still on the run. There were several attempts to stop him. With sport, we have a limit.

Last month, a report on EU sports policy, prepared by MEP and former professional player Tomasz Frankowski called on “all stakeholders to prioritize policies that protect children, promote lifestyles healthy and active and ensure safe, inclusive and equal sport ”.

In the United States, the Center for SafeSport is an independent body that handles investigations and complaints of abuse and misconduct in Olympic sports and has the power to suspend and prohibit abusers. He is currently investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against track coach Rana Reider, which he denies.

UK-based Safe Sport International – which has partners including the International Paralympic Committee and the International Netball Federation – describes itself as “the leading international agency on the global elimination of all forms. of violence, abuse and harassment against athletes of all ages ”. It offers victims the opportunity to report suspected abuse, but has no investigative power.

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