Chicago Journal of International Law

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The lead-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar has generated significant controversy due to the host country’s exploitative labor system and sub-standard human rights record. While FIFA has not remained completely insulated from criticism for its involvement, the sport’s principal governing body has avoided all serious threats of liability for its connection to human rights violations associated with the 2022 World Cup. This immunity largely stems from limitations on domestic courts in adjudicating domestic corporations’ foreign business activities. Yet, the ongoing development of a new treaty under the U.N. offers a different approach to liability for transnational business activities. Using U.N. Human Rights Council Resolution 26/9 and its proposed legally binding instrument as a new avenue for transnational corporate accountability, this Comment examines FIFA’s liability for human rights violations in Qatar connected to the World Cup. Further, this Comment concludes that FIFA can be held liable in its domicile for its transnational business activities in Qatar. The organization’s business relationship with Qatar, through the tournament, establishes a sufficient link to attach liability for the related human rights violations. Although questions persist as to exactly how this treaty will operate, it is apparent that FIFA’s absolute immunity is fading. Finally, this Comment shifts away from the 2022 World Cup as a case study for liability and explores the practical implications of expanding corporate liability for FIFA and other transnational corporations’ future business activities. The expansion of a hard law regime in this area raises issues surrounding the chilling of foreign investment by increasing compliance costs. While the appropriate balancing of these considerations is contentious, this Comment argues that, in FIFA’s case, the expansion of transnational corporate liability likely will not produce significant adverse effects on its investment in developing countries through “the beautiful game.”

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