Kritik der politischen Ökonomie Katars: Zur Debatte über soziale Menschenrechtsverletzungen im Vorfeld der Fußballweltmeisterschaft 2022 (2022)
When Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup on December 2, 2010, at first sight it appeared to be the crowning achievement of an unparalleled development and the diplomatic success story of the 21st century. In fact, the rentier state of Qatar, which had still been suffering from major development policy deficits in the 1980s and had been acting from a position of weakness in its foreign policy, then rose to become one of the richest countries under the rule of Hamad Al-Thani (1995-2013). It was also able to achieve remarkable successes in foreign policy, too. As is discussed in Section 2, however, many of the structural problems associated with rentier statehood had by no means been overcome. The decade following the announcement was also to present unexpectedly significant challenges: the Arab Spring of 2010-11, the collapse of oil and natural gas prices in 2014, and the blockade of Qatar imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt in 2017. The wealth of the country notwithstanding, a number of structural factors placed severe pressure on the regime in Doha to further develop internal and external legitimacy so as to stabilize its rule. Because of the prominence of the World Cup, the regime in Doha faced a whole new set of challenges. Until then, Qatar's sports diplomacy had been a clear success story that had raised the country's international reputation, whereas Doha now faced massive criticism from Western media and nongovernmental organizations. Initially, the main accusation was that the choice of Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) was also the result of corrupt practices. In addition, Qatar had at times been accused of supporting terrorism. However, the most sustained criticism of Qatar being awarded the 2022 FIFA World Cup came from a debate launched by Western media, nongovernmental organizations, and human rights organizations about labor conditions in the country. The criticism focused on the construction of stadiums by migrant workers. Their labor contracts are based on the kafala (Arabic for sponsor) system, which does not meet social human rights standards. Against this background, Section 3 illuminates the historical development of the Qatari kafala system, as well as its functionality for the rentier state and its limits. It shows that the prevalence of the kafala system in contemporary Qatari labor relations does not emanate from an anachronistic local tradition. Rather, Kafala was established by London as a tool for the comprehensive control of labor migration, because it was most suitable to serve the needs of the international oil companies in their endeavor of transforming Qatar into an oil country. At the same time, as kafala does not require intense administrative effort, it did not overstretch limited British capacities in Qatar. Furthermore, it becomes apparent that it is Qatari society that has a vested interest in maintaining the kafala system, because it provides Qatari citizens with significant privileges. The interest of the Qatari state, however, is mostly rooted in its need to acquire legitimacy toward its citizens. Although the abolishment of the kafala system is thus very unlikely, there are chances for further reforms to be launched, not least because the Qatari leadership is aware of the problems the system poses with regards to development policy. The fourth section, which takes a normative perspective, addresses and reviews the criticism that the kafala system is an expression of modern slavery, as it is held directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of construction workers in the 2010s. Among the major findings of this discussion is that - significant deficits of the kafala system with regards to social human rights notwithstanding - the concept of slavery does not accurately capture the nature of Qatari labor relations. Indeed, this concept tends to convey a problematic orientalist perspective that presents the Qatari political economy as a local anomaly instead of elaborating its integral embedment in the global capitalist system. The fifth section applies a political angle and argues that Western scandalization of Qatar's political economy beyond the regular politicization of social human rights violations in Qatar is inappropriate as a way of dealing with the World Cup taking place in the winter of 2022, because it reveals Western double standards, ignores the co-responsibility of the Global North, and disregards the reform efforts of the Qatari state. The final chapter proposes a number of policy recommendations. These recommendations are based on the reasonable assumption that the Qatari state has a pronounced interest in enhancing its external legitimacy. Therefore, Europe, and particularly Germany, should try to use the envisioned energy partnership to promote the consolidation of reforms in the kafala system.