John Ruggie has been appointed by FIFA to orchestrate their human rights policy ©Harvard Kennedy School

Harvard Professor and international expert John Ruggie has been appointed by FIFA to study ways in which football's world governing body can better respect human rights.

Ruggie, an Austrian-born lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School, who has served as the United Nations (UN) secretary general’s Special Representative for Business and Human Rights, will provide recommendations for further embedding the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights into FIFA’s policies and practices.

He is due to publish his recommendations in a report to be completed by the end of March 2016.

This will further embed UN-endorsed values into "the heart of the football governing body’s day-to-day operations", including during the FIFA World Cup, it is hoped.

“FIFA’s global reach means that this initiative has the potential to make a difference where it matters most: in the daily lives of people,” said Ruggie.

“As with any such process, I fully recognise that there will be challenges and complex change takes time.

"However, this has the potential to set the bar for other global sports organisations, and place respect for human rights front and centre for a broad range of entities involved in global sporting events.”

Human rights standards surrounding the construction of venues at Qatar 2022 have been questioned ©Amnesty International
Human rights standards surrounding the construction of venues at Qatar 2022 have been questioned ©Amnesty International

Ruggie's appointments comes as FIFA seeks to restore its tarnished reputation following a series of corruption scandals that have led to the suspension of President Sepp Blatter ahead of elections next year to appoint a replacement.

Part of the recent problems have included Qatar's hosting of the 2022 World Cup, where human rights concerns surrounding working conditions on construction sites are among the main problems.

It is likely, however, that the report will come too late to significantly impact labour practices in the Gulf country.

The 2026 World Cup process has been hightlighted as one area to be covered, along with the activities of FIFA sponsors.

Human Rights Watch have described the appointment as "a step forward". 

A statement added: "If FIFA carries out those recommendations, it could move the ball down the field for human rights.

"But FIFA has commissioned and buried reports before, so whether FIFA is serious is still an open question.‎"

The FIFA Executive Committee recommended that the Congress approve the implementation of a new Article of the FIFA Statutes that commits the body to "respecting all internationally recognised human rights and to promoting the respect of these rights in the context of FIFA’s activities".

Ruggie was approached in August, but has been waiting to ensure he has full independent control before confirming his role. 

“This collaboration is another important step in our ongoing reform process," said Cameroon's FIFA Interim President Issa Hayatou.

"I am proud to see that FIFA is taking the lead among international sports organisations on such an important topic.

"Football and FIFA have an important role to play in this field; respect for human rights has to be at the core of our organisation and our sport."

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