Human rights and Formula One

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In recent weeks a new statement has appeared amongst the legalese found on the official Formula1.com website. For the first time in its history, Formula One Management has taken an official position on human rights, and published that position for all to see.

The statement is on a webpage that also includes details of F1 copyright and trademark information, and is not announced anywhere on the site. I was made aware of its inclusion by a press release from a human rights organisation trumpeting their success in getting FOM to acknowledge their former "lack of due diligence" concerning potential rights abuses in F1 host countries.

"Following Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain's (ADHRB) successful mediation of a complaint to the United Kingdom National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises-concerning Formula One Management's lack of due diligence considerations regarding possible human rights impact in Bahrain-Formula One has committed itself to respecting human rights in Bahrain and other countries in which it conducts business," the release read.

"ADHRB praises Formula One's decision to adopt a human rights policy and examine its impact in Bahrain, and thanks the OECD National Contact Point of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for their role in the successful mediation process."

FOM's new commitment to human rights around the world follows a complaint made by ADHRB to the OECD in 2014 relating to Formula One's "adverse impacts on human rights in Bahrain in relation to its annual race".

The OECD representative for the UK upheld the suggestion that the ADHRB's complaint was worthy of further investigation "on issues relating to Formula One World Championship Limited and Formula One Management Limited's management systems, due diligence, human rights policy and communications with stakeholders and business partners" and recommended that both parties enter mediation proceedings with a view to finding a mutually agreeable solution for FOM and ADHRB alike.

It is interesting to note that the FIA receives no mention in either the original complaint, the ADHRB press release, or in the comments made by the OECD.

The mutually agreeable solution found is not limited to the buried publication of a statement of commitment on the Formula1.com website. In addition, ADHRB state, "included in this commitment is a promise to develop and implement a due diligence policy in which Formula One analyzes and takes steps to mitigate any human rights impact that its activities may have on a host country".

Looking ahead, ADHRB has affirmed its commitment to monitoring "the conduct of Formula One Management in upholding its new human rights policy regarding the human rights impacts in future Bahrain races" while also pledging "to scrutinise adverse human rights impacts during events held by Formula One Management in Bahrain, and hold them to account with the standards set in their new human rights policy and internationally recognised human rights law."

The full Statement of Commitment to Respect for Human Rights has been copied in full below:

1. The Formula One Group is committed to respecting internationally recognised human rights in its operations globally.

2. Whilst respecting human rights in all of our activities, we focus our efforts in relation to those areas which are within our own direct influence. We do so by taking proportionate steps to:
(a) understand and monitor through our due diligence processes the potential human rights impacts of our activities;
(b) identify and assess, by conducting due diligence where appropriate, any actual or potential adverse human rights impacts with which we may be involved either through our own activities or as a result of our business relationships, including but not limited to our suppliers and promoters;
(c) consider practical responses to any issues raised as a result of our due diligence, within the relevant context;
(d) engage in meaningful consultation with relevant stakeholders in relation to any issues raised as a result of our due diligence, where appropriate;

and (e) respect the human rights of our employees, in particular the prohibitions against forced and child labour, the freedom to associate and organise, the right to engage in collective bargaining, and the elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation.

3. Where domestic laws and regulations conflict with internationally recognised human rights, the Formula One Group will seek ways to honour them to the fullest extent which does not place them in violation of domestic law.