Three questions to Prof. Hans Erik Næss… Speaker on Athletes and Human Rights at Sport Future Rendez-Vous 2022

We caught up with Hans Erik Næss, Professor in Sport Management at the Kristiana University in Oslo, Norway, who is one of the speakers at this year’s Sport Future Rendez-Vous which will address the pressing topic of Athletes and Human Rights. The discussions will provide different perspectives and Prof. Næss will share his insights as a sociologist and researcher in the field of sport and human rights. Here is a sneak preview!

How would you define “human rights” in one sentence?

Prof. Næss: For me, human rights are the institutionalised protection of human dignity, judicial arrangements for protection of what makes us relevant.

What’s your view on sport organisations’ responsibilities in the field of human rights and today’s situation?

Prof. Næss: Sport organisations have a responsibility when it comes to human rights, simply because they are powerful. At least the largest governing bodies have tremendous influence on global politics and with that power comes responsibility. The activities of these governing bodies affect so many people that you cannot escape that responsibility of what will happen to those people. I don’t know why some of them still try to do so, for instance by hiding behind the principle of neutrality. Other organisations may simply not be aware of how powerful they are because they are not a state or a major transnational company. However, having said that, overall, I feel things are moving and improving. I am optimistic change will be coming.

Talking of change, what could sport organisations improve in their approach to human rights over the next ten years? 

Prof. Næss: I think it will be key to follow through properly the commitments already made, for instance if you think of criteria for hosting major events and related human rights considerations. What happens if human rights commitments in such a context will be breached or if something does not go according to the initial plans? I believe it will be critical to ensure accountability in this important field.

Another essential part refers to remedy in case something bad happens. As a researcher, I haven’t seen any plans by governing bodies in this regard, yet. I am very much looking forward to addressing these areas at Sport Future Rendez-Vous later this month as I am always eager to establish the facts, thereby contributing to a constructive discussion and to finding solutions.

About the event
Jointly organised by ThinkSport and the University of Lausanne (UNIL), the 2022 edition of Sport Future Rendez-Vous will take place on 29 September from 5pm to 7.30pm at the Synathlon Building on the University of Lausanne campus, Switzerland. Other speakers will include Véronique Boillet, Professor of Law at the University of Lausanne; Guido Battaglia, Head of Policy and Outreach at the Centre for Sport and Human Rights; and Florian Yelin, Policy and Research Coordinator at the World Players Association. Click here to learn more and to save your place.