Qatar’s challenge of worker rights

20 September 2012

Rights groups are turning the spotlight on the plight of construction workers in Qatar

In late 2010, the tiny Gulf state of Qatar stunned the world when it was awarded the right to host football’s 2022 World Cup. Doha saw the achievement as a great opportunity to set in motion an ambitious economic diversification programme.

After having watched neighbouring Dubai develop itself into an international tourist hotspot and global transport hub, Qatar was eager to follow in its footsteps and implement a sustainable long-term economic model.

With vast liquefied natural gas (LNG) reserves, the Gulf state has the means to create a name for itself on the international stage, whether through diplomacy, high-profile international acquisitions, or the development of its own industry and culture. Hosting one of the world’s largest sporting events is a great opportunity to highlight the country’s potential.

However, with this comes great responsibility. Qatar will not just be under the watchful eye of global media when it hosts the event, but will be under the spotlight as it undertakes an ambitious infrastructure development programme over the next 10 years.

While the technical challenges of completing the $60bn-plus of construction projects will be substantial, the challenge of protecting the rights and safety of the people building them is set to provide a stern test.

Qatar has been heavily criticised in recent months by human rights groups over the treatment of migrant workers. These organisations have pledged to continue to put pressure on the government and firms working in the state.

To ensure that Qatar reaps the benefits from its World Cup experience, the government will need to ensure that the world is focused on what it is building, rather than concerns over the people building it.

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