Learning Lab Blog

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October 2, 2017 •

Public procurement of private security services: new contract guidance tool promotes greater respect for human rights and accountability

DCAF 2By The Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF)

The use of private military and security companies (PMSCs) worldwide is increasing. Since the early 1990s, the global private security industry has been expanding significantly in response to increasingly complex security environments, ranging from conflict or post-conflict situations to growing terrorism threats and humanitarian crises.

In the Latin America and Caribbean region for instance, at least 16,174 private security companies have been identified, with more than 2,450,000 legal employees working as security guards. Today it is not rare to have states with a higher ratio of private security personnel to police. PMSCs have adapted their services and operations to this context; nevertheless, some PMSCs have also attracted increasing international attention due to misconduct, human rights abuses, and violations of international humanitarian law.

For example, PMSCs provide operational support to a number of asylum seeker and immigration detention centers. Human rights organisations are concerned about the numerous reports of serious human rights violations and relative lack of monitoring and oversight of private security personnel managing and operating these centres. Abuse of detainees has raised serious ethical and legal questions and facilities with armed guards lead to concerns over the use of force. Furthermore, the transparency of contracts between private security companies and governments has also been questioned. Continue reading. “Public procurement of private security services: new contract guidance tool promotes greater respect for human rights and accountability”

August 18, 2017 •

Raising Awareness on Public Procurement Impact on Human Rights in Serbia

js 5By Jovana Stopic
Jovana Stopic is a human rights expert, she has been working with Belgrade Centre for Human Rights on establishing human rights and business footprint in Serbia since 2013

As a candidate country for EU membership, Serbia has been in the process of accession negotiations since 2014. Negotiations were initiated on a number of chapters including Chapter 5 on public procurement and Chapter 23 covering fundamental rights. To enter into EU membership, amongst other requirements, Serbia is expected to ensure that EU legislation has been transposed across the board into Serbian law and that it is effectively implemented. This means that the accession process is currently the main reform engine in the country in all spheres of political and economic life. It also entails that the success of any advocacy activity is conditioned on its proximity to the priorities set for the EU integration agenda.

In its 2016 Progress Report, the European Commission assessed that Serbia was “moderately prepared” for EU accession in the area of public procurement, but in order to close the negotiations under Chapter 5 on Public Procurement Serbia is expected to reach three major benchmarks. Continue reading. “Raising Awareness on Public Procurement Impact on Human Rights in Serbia”

Policy Coherence on Business and Human Rights – A Trifecta of Opportunity in Australia

 

Headshot - Alison ElliottBy Alison Elliott
Senior Policy Adviser, UNICEF Australia

The business and human rights agenda has gathered pace over the last year in Australia.

Now, three on-going processes represent significant opportunities to strengthen Australian policy and legislation, including in the area of public procurement.

If seized, they offer a chance to better protect individuals and communities against adverse human rights impacts of business activity, reward leading companies and further support corporations to meet their responsibility to respect human rights.

First, in January 2016 the Australian Government undertook to conduct a national consultation on implementing the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This was a voluntary commitment made as a result of Australia’s participation in the UN Universal Periodic Review process, where states review each other’s fulfilment of their human rights obligations. Continue reading. “Policy Coherence on Business and Human Rights – A Trifecta of Opportunity in Australia”

August 7, 2017 •

Australia Should Extend Modern Slavery Obligations to Public Buyers

By Olga Martin-Ortega, Business, Human Rights and the Environment Research Group; Claire Methven O’Brien, Danish Institute for Human Rights; and Andy Davies, London Universities Purchasing Consortium

In April 2017 we submitted written evidence on behalf of the Learning Lab to the Australian Parliament Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia.

In particular, we recommended the inclusion of a “Transparency in Supply Chains” provision to apply to public bodies, as well as corporations, and to build upon experience, practice and research concerning the first year of implementation of Section 54 of the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 (MSA) by UK public buyers.

This recommendation followed from an analysis undertaken during 2017 by the Business, Human Rights and the Environment Research (BHRE) Group of over 80 Slavery and Human Trafficking statements produced by UK public buyers, mostly universities.   Continue reading. “Australia Should Extend Modern Slavery Obligations to Public Buyers”

March 14, 2017 •

Why does Gender Equality Matter to Public Procurement? An African perspective

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The booming field of public procurement studies is increasingly open to investigating human rights issues within supply chains. However, little attention has so far been paid to the economic and political impacts of public procurement regulations and practices on gender equality. Gender and sexuality cannot be separated from workers’ rights, fair pay, modern slavery – issues that are of interest to public procurement and human rights scholars and advocates. Gender and sexuality have widely been shown to reinforce occupational segregation of socio-economic classes in the workplace. Continue reading. “Why does Gender Equality Matter to Public Procurement? An African perspective”

February 13, 2017 •

Human rights body calls for public procurement to be addressed in new UN guidance on economic and social rights

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By Daniel Morris
Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has produced a draft general comment on State Obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) in the Context of Business Activities.

The ICESCR is one of the two main human rights treaties worldwide. The Committee is made up of 18 independent experts who monitor implementation of the ICESCR by States parties.  In its general comments, the Committee provides guidance on how states’ obligations under the ICESCR should be interpreted.

The Committee’s draft general comment on business and human rights expands on a range of business and human rights issues, drawing on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as well as the ICESCR.

Notably, however, public procurement is not addressed by the current draft, even though it is clearly identified as an aspect of the state duty to protect under the UN’s “Three Pillar” Framework on Business and Human Rights. Continue reading. “Human rights body calls for public procurement to be addressed in new UN guidance on economic and social rights”

January 17, 2017 •

Ready or not: Universities and reporting requirements under the UK Modern Slavery Act

Olga

By Dr. Olga Martin-Ortega
Reader in Public International Law and leader of the Business, Human Rights and the Environment Research Group, University of Greenwich

On 29 October 2015 the Transparency in Supply Chains provision (section 54) of the UK Modern Slavery Act (“section 54”) entered into force. Section 54 requires commercial entities to report annually on their efforts to identify and prevent modern slavery in their supply chain. It aims to engage commercial organisations in the fight against slavery, human trafficking and forced labour.

The Modern Slavery Act (“MSA”) defines “commercial entities” as suppliers of goods or services with a total annual turnover of £36 million or more. This includes certain public bodies subject to the UK’s Public Contracts Regulations (2015).  Amongst these are over one hundred Universities and Higher Education providers, which receive public funding from the Government at the same time as they act as commercial entities, by charging fees for the services they deliver.

While many companies were expecting the enactment of section 54, and had participated in Government consultation, it came to a surprise to universities, which have had to wake up to an important reality: they, too, are players in fighting modern slavery, human trafficking, forced labour and more generally human rights abuses in their supply chains. Continue reading. “Ready or not: Universities and reporting requirements under the UK Modern Slavery Act”

December 15, 2016 •

Missed Opportunity for Stronger Public Procurement Legislation in Sweden

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By Théo Jaekel
Senior Specialist: Human Rights and Supply Chain, Vinge Law Firm

On 30 November the Swedish Parliament adopted new legislation implementing the 2014 EU Directives on public procurement, but rejected proposed provisions that would have established mandatory social criteria in line with Swedish collective bargaining agreements, and ILO Core Conventions.

During the preceding political debates a clear dividing line could be seen between left and right wing parties on the issue of mandatory social requirements.

Under the Government’s proposals public authorities would have been obliged to include social criteria requiring suppliers to adhere to minimum standards with regards to wages, working hours, and vacation time in line with the prevailing collective bargaining agreement in the relevant industry in Sweden.  The provisions would not have demanded that suppliers were a party to a collective bargaining agreement, but rather that they should adhere to the standards set by collective bargaining agreements. Nevertheless, the proposal met with strong resistance from the opposition. Continue reading. “Missed Opportunity for Stronger Public Procurement Legislation in Sweden”

November 28, 2016 •

Mandatory exclusions: a new tool to protect human rights in EU public procurement?

David_HansomBy David Hansom
Partner, VWV LLP London

The EU procurement regime draws on and develops many of the principles set out in the World Trade Organisation’s Global Procurement Agreement.

Both draw on principles of fairness, non-discrimination on the grounds of nationality, and equal treatment,  as is well known by procurement lawyers around the world.

But recognition of the need for the protection of human rights through public contracts is only now starting to gain traction as a key area of procurement policy and practical application by EU member states.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), which are supported by the EU, and promoted by a growing number of individual member states through National Action Plans (NAPs) provide a strong normative basis for developments in this area, but the discretion afforded to EU member states to implement the EU procurement directives, and lack of awareness of the impacts of procurement on human rights, mean that many simply have not yet linked procurement with human rights through their national legislation. Continue reading. “Mandatory exclusions: a new tool to protect human rights in EU public procurement?”

Public Procurement and Human Rights in Poland – can a source of a problem become its solution?

GP Kwadrat

By Grzegorz Piskalski
Institute for Sustainable Public Procurement

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By Bartłomiej Kozek
Communications Specialist,  Institute for Sustainable Public Procurement

Public procurement in Poland accounted for 8.7% of the country’s GDP in 2013. Although under the EU average (19%), it still thus accounts for a substantial part of the overall Polish economy.

Moreover, in sectors such as cleaning and private security, public institutions and their tenders represent respectively 60% and 40% of the market share. Public buyers therefore wield great influence over the terms and conditions of service delivery in these areas.

These are also sectors where significant human rights abuses occur, given the situation in the Polish labour market. Many workers do not receive a living wage, and may work up to 350-400 hours per month, while often lacking social insurance, paid holidays or proper and safe working conditions.

How have public tenders led to this situation? Continue reading. “Public Procurement and Human Rights in Poland – can a source of a problem become its solution?”