Leisure is a human right. This was established by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted by the General Assembly of the newly formed United Nations in 1948. This right was further developed in the World Leisure Organisation’s Charter for Leisure, which was reviewed and revised by a task force of the World Leisure Academy (WLA) in the period 2018-20 (www.worldleisure.org/charter/).

During the process of reviewing of the charter, it was discovered that leisure rights, despite their UDHR status, have generally been neglected by governments, leisure policymakers, practitioners and researchers and the wider human rights system. The Leisure and Human Rights Special Interest Group (LHRSIG) was established in 2022 by the Board of the WLO in response to this situation.


  • To promote research and teaching on the topic of human rights and leisure, based on the principles set out in the WLO Charter for Leisure.
  • To enhance the profile of leisure rights among governments, leisure policymakers, practitioners and researchers and within the UN human rights system.

Current activities

A leisure rights research agenda

A research agenda for leisure and human rights was proposed in articles on the topic in the World Leisure Journal in 2015 and 2022.* These suggestions can be seen as a draft of a research agenda to be further developed by the LHRSIG over time. The issue of funding for implementation of all or parts of the agenda may be considered by the LHRSIG, from national and international sources.

  1. Examine the leisure-related content of individual member states’ periodic reports to the UN on progress with implementation the International Covenant on Economic, Social Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
  2. Assess the place of leisure rights in individual national human rights arrangements, including national constitutions and human rights legislation and institutions.
  3. For nations which have not ratified the ICESCR: examine reasons for non-ratification and leisure implications.
  4. Examine adjudicated leisure-related cases of discrimination under national or regional (EU) anti-discrimination legislation.
  5. Explore ways in which leisure might be incorporated into human rights measurement and indexing frameworks.
  6. Examine child exploitation and abuse in leisure contexts.

* Articles cited are by Veal (2015) and Veal and Sivan (2022): details are provided at the end of this statement.

* The ICESCR is one of the UN legal treaties which establishes UDHR rights as part of international law.


Proposed project: “Leisure rights: Holding nation states to account”

This project can be seen as a contribution to implementing items 1 and 2 of the above research agenda..

Participation will be invited in a collaborative research project to investigate the performance of individual nation states in regard to their respecting, protecting and fulfilling of human rights, particularly leisure rights, using a common conceptual and research framework. Individual state reports would be published as journal articles and also possibly on-line.

While the emphasis will be on member states of the United Nations, it is envisaged that the programme will accommodate contributions related to sub-national entities which have legislative powers in regard to human rights – for example, states/provinces in federal systems and arrangements such as the ‘countries’ of the UK.

Details of the project will be provided in an on-line LHRSIG seminar to be held later in 2022, when an open invitation to colleagues around the world to become involved with the project will be announced.


Development of on-line teaching and research materials

The Charter for Leisure web-page (www.worldleisure.org/charter) includes the following support materials:

  • Material for governments
  • Educational materials
  • Bibliography

These materials are currently in draft form and will be developed further over time under the auspices of the LHRSIG.

Future activities

  • Promotion of the Charter for Leisure internationally: programme to be devised.
  • Planned session(s) at the 2023 World Leisure Congress, Dunedin, New Zealand (probably based on the above ‘Holding nation states to account’ project).
  • Encouragement of research papers on disciplinary aspects of leisure rights – e.g., Education; Public policy; Philosophy; Sociology (a paper on sociology has already been presented and is currently under review – see Veal and Sivan (2022) reference, below).
  • Regarding item (4) of the above research agenda regarding adjudicated human rights cases: an example, involving access by people with disabilities to cultural venues in Australia, is the study by Darcy and Taylor (2009). Similar studies for other countries, social groups and activities could be encouraged.
  • Discriminatory practices and leisure activity. The Darcy and Taylor (2009) study is also an example of research concerned not just with adjudicated cases, and not just with leisure rights per se, but also with documenting examples of practices which infringe the rights of a group to fair treatment and access in leisure settings. A considerable body of research exists in a variety of settings (e.g., sport, tourism, mega-events, culture: see above-mentioned on-line Bibliography). This body of work could be reviewed and evaluated and any gaps identified.


This initial statement of goals and activities has been compiled by the co-chairs of the LHRSIG. Once a more extended membership of the group has been recruited, the statement will be subject to discussion and review with full membership involvement.

Darcy, S., & Taylor, T. (2009). Disability citizenship: An Australian human rights analysis of the cultural industries. Leisure Studies, 28(4), 419–441).

Sivan, A., & Veal, A.J. (2021). Leisure and human rights: the World Leisure Organisation Charter for Leisure: Past, present and future. World Leisure Journal, 63(2), 133-140.

Veal, A.J. (2015). Human rights, leisure and leisure studies. World Leisure Journal, 57(4), 249-72.

Veal, A.J. (2021). International assessment of the right to leisure time. World Leisure Journal, 63(2), 141-151.

Veal, A.J. (2022). Sport and human rights: Assessing the performance of nation states in assuring the right to sport participation. European Journal for Sport and Society. DOI: 10.1080/1613 8171.2022.2032920.

Veal, A.J., & Sivan, A. (2022). Leisure and human rights and the World Leisure Organisation Charter for Leisure: A sociological perspective. Paper presented at the British Sociological Association, Leisure and Recreation Study Group one-day on-line seminar: Leisure for All: Formulating the Right to Leisure as a Radical Demand for Democratic Citizenship, 21 January 2022. (A revised version of the paper is currently under review with Annals of Leisure Research).

Veal, A.J., & Sivan, A. (2022). Holding governments to account for leisure rights: A research agenda. World Leisure Journal, 64(3).


Atara Sivan, Hong Kong Baptist University, atarasiv@hkbu.edu.hk

Tony (A.J) Veal, University of Technology Sydney, Tony.Veal@uts.edu.au