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Amid scandals: the United Nations Conference on Labor wants Qatar at the summit

Amid scandals: the United Nations Conference on Labor wants Qatar at the summit

The major event in Qatar sparked fierce international discussions, of which working conditions were the main focus. At the time, there was talk of tens of thousands of workers who were said to have been exploited in slavery-like conditions. The Guardian reported last year that more than 6,000 migrants from countries such as India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died on stadium construction sites – Qatar has long dismissed such claims.

The International Labor Organization also commented on Qatar at the time. During a working visit to Doha, the director-general of the organization, Gilbert Hongbo, said he “congratulates Qatar for the progress it has made in recent years,” reforms have improved workers’ rights and the security situation has also changed for the better.

The Minister of Labor presides over the conference

According to the Guardian report, Qatar’s responsible labor minister, Ali bin Samish al-Marri, is set to become chair of the International Labor Organization’s annual conference in June. The International Trade Union Confederation has criticized this, and has expressed its “grave concerns”. The organization warns that this would damage the reputation of the ILO.

APA/AFP/Ministry of Labor of Qatar

Minister of Labor Al-Marri also met with the former Vice-President of the European Parliament, Eva Kayli

In the Guardian, a former ILO official who spoke anonymously to the newspaper raised serious allegations against the UN agency. The International Labor Organization “whitewashed” Qatar ahead of the World Cup and presented “biased” reports on labor law reform in the country. He referred to an investment of 25 million euros from 2017, with which Qatar supports the ILO office in Doha. According to the former ILO official, the ILO was “definitely” dependent on these funds.

Qatar has also been embroiled in a corruption scandal in the European Union

The ILO’s statements about Qatar sparked another scandal. In the corruption scandal in the European Parliament, Qatar was said to have had influence over political decisions. One of the suspects, former deputy speaker of parliament Eva Kayley, cited the UN’s positive summation of Qatar’s reforms and called Qatar a “pioneer” on workers’ rights.

Al-Marri’s minister of labor is also named in this regard: he is said to have met the prime suspect, former Italian deputy Pier Antonio Panzieri, at a hotel in Brussels. No specific allegations have yet been made against Al-Marri, the Guardian writes. Panziri agreed to cooperate with authorities earlier this year and, like Kylie, has been under house arrest for some time.

Sharp criticism from NGOs

The statements of the International Labor Organization and the European Parliament at the time contradicted the reports of non-governmental organizations that were highly critical of the situation in Qatar. Human Rights Watch, for example, said that while Qatar has undertaken “important labor reforms,” ​​they have proven “totally inadequate to protect workers’ rights” and “weakly implemented,” the NGO said.

Workers at Lusail Stadium in Doha

Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

NGOs criticize working conditions in Qatar

The NGO FairSquare told the Guardian that allowing Qatar to preside over the conference would be “colossal folly” “at a time when it urgently needs to show its independence and impartiality”.

But even the Confederation of Trade Unions, which is now critical of the International Labor Organization, has attracted attention in the past with contradictory statements about Qatar. Their former general secretary, Sharan Burrow, said the World Cup should be enjoyed given the many reforms in the country. She described reports of thousands of deaths as a “myth”. Her successor, Luca Visentini, was soon sacked after it became known that he had accepted money from the accused Panziri MEP. He denies these allegations.

ILO: Take the allegations seriously

A statement from the ILO, reported by the Guardian, said it takes the issues raised by the ITUC very seriously. “While there has been undeniable progress on labor reforms in Qatar, all parties recognize that much remains to be done. The concerns expressed in the ITUC letter, as well as other critical issues, will be raised by the organization,” the statement added. International work with the Qatari government.

Qatar’s payments to the ILO were also defended: “It is not unusual” for governments to fund an office in their country that does not affect the ILO’s independence. Regarding Qatar’s criticism of the report, it was said that “specific gaps and challenges” were always pointed out.

However, the country’s presidency of the conference has yet to be decided. The decision to chair the conference has yet to be confirmed by ILO member states and workers’ and unions’ representatives. The conference will be held in Geneva from 5 to 16 June.

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