David Rutherford: Supporting international work on Mega Sports Events and Human Rights

David Rutherford: Supporting international work on Mega Sports Events and Human Rights

June 17, 2016

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission has accepted an invitation to join the recently formed Multi-Stakeholder Steering Committee intended to assess the need for innovative efforts on these the human rights issues associated with Mega Sports Events, including the potential for establishing a new independent centre for human rights learning, legacy and accountability for mega-sporting events. These events include the Olympic Games, Paralympic Games, FIFA World Cup, Cricket World Cup and Rugby World Cup.

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, is chairing the Steering Committee.   Chief Commissioner David Rutherford is on the Steering Committee and is liaising with other NHRIs on the issues arising in the Steering Committees work.  He has particular responsibility for work being done on the role of sponsors in respecting and promoting human rights and on human rights remedy. This work was the subject of presentations, by a number of the members of the Steering Committee, including the Chief Commissioner, at the recent OECD Forum on Responsible Business Conduct. 

The Commission’s involvement in this work has been welcomed by Jonathan Coleman, Minister of Sport and by the Chief Executives of Sport New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand as well as other leaders of sports organisations in New Zealand and overseas. It will enable New Zealand to be particularly well informed about developments as regards human rights in bidding requirements for mega sports events that may be held in future in New Zealand.  

Next year will be the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Commission. It is one of the most experienced NHRIs in the world in dealing with business and human rights issues, particularly in its enquires and complaints and equal employment opportunities work. The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, alongside other international instruments such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, now constitute the business and human rights rules of the game for governments, businesses, sports bodies and other actors.

Involvement in the Steering Committee has already built new relationships that are being leveraged to develop a better understanding of these rules in New Zealand. In August another member of the Steering Committee, Brent Wilton, Coca Cola’s global leader in human rights and workplace rights will participate in a number of events organised by the Commission under the leadership of Dr Jackie Blue designed to develop a deeper understanding in New Zealand of how the new rules apply to business, government and other actors. Brent is a New Zealander with decades of international experience in the business and human rights arena. These events will also involve SHIFT which is  one of the world’s leading business and human rights NGOs. SHIFT is chaired by Professor John Ruggie, the author of the UNGPs. SHIFT assisted Professor Ruggie in his recent work with FIFA. Professor Ruggie will be involved in the next meeting of the Steering Committee. 


David Rutherford, Chief Human Rights Commissioner

David Rutherford was appointed Chief Human Rights Commissioner on September 2011. Prior to his appointment, he was the managing director of Special Olympics Asia Pacific and based in Singapore.

He has held senior executive roles in building materials and agribusiness businesses operating in New Zealand and Australia, has been chief executive of the New Zealand Rugby Union and has worked as a corporate, securities and commercial lawyer in New Zealand and Canada.

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