'Law Exclusion Zones': Mega-Events as Sites of Procedural and Substantive Human Rights Violations

25 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2015

Date Written: Fall 2014


The implementation of mega-events typically requires the creation of special laws in host countries and cities. One of the most famous is the Olympic Games’ “brand exclusion zones”, which ban all brands except official Olympic sponsors from the areas around Olympic venues and frequently conflict with host countries’ own competition and free speech laws. Using Brazil’s 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games as case studies, this paper argues that these zones are part of a broader trend in mega-events planning: the use of special legal instruments that effectively create “law exclusion zones” by hollowing out the normal legal processes of host countries and cities and paving the way for rapid urban transformation.

Interviews with affected community members and analyses of court cases, fact-finding reports, and planning documents from recent mega-events worldwide reveal systemic patterns of rights violations. This paper argues that the extraordinary legal regimes governing mega-events are part of a two-step process that opens up avenues for new human rights violations. First, special agreements between governments and sponsoring bodies create new channels for fast-track decision-making, allowing officials and developers to bypass normal consultative and participatory processes. The loss of procedural rights then lays the groundwork for new substantive rights violations, including in employment, housing, and the right to the city. This paper concludes that better participatory mechanisms and checks on fast-track deal-making are crucial for ensuring that mega-events meet international human rights standards and comply with the domestic legal regimes of host countries.

Keywords: law, international organizations, development, mega-events, Brazil, Olympics, FIFA, World Cup, human rights

JEL Classification: K00, K31, K33, N46, N66

Suggested Citation

Corrarino, Megan, 'Law Exclusion Zones': Mega-Events as Sites of Procedural and Substantive Human Rights Violations (Fall 2014). Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal, Vol. 17, No. 1, 2014, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2623989

Megan Corrarino (Contact Author)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

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