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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

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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?

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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?”

Agents for Change: New report from Sweden highlights opportunities and challenges in improving respect for human rights in government supply chains

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By Linda Scott Jakobsson
Researcher, Swedwatch

Over recent years my organization, Swedwatch, has revealed that goods purchased by public authorities are produced under poor working conditions, and where the risks of other business-related human rights abuses and environmental degradation in and around factories are high.

So, is it possible for government buyers to contribute to positive change by introducing social requirements into public contracts?

Swedish public authorities are generally considered forerunners when it comes to implementing sustainability criteria in their purchasing contracts, by international comparison.

Therefore, Swedwatch’s latest report, Agents for Change, tackles the question by presenting Swedish government purchasing practices in the context of three separate case studies of government procurement: Continue reading. “Agents for Change: New report from Sweden highlights opportunities and challenges in improving respect for human rights in government supply chains”

November 1, 2016 •

Despite Progress, Challenges Persist for Implementation of Human Rights Reforms in Federal Contracting

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By Amol Mehra, Esq.
Director, ICAR

The integration of human rights considerations into federal contracting has sped up drastically under the Obama Administration. By using Executive Authority to amend federal contracting regulations, President Obama has elevated human trafficking, labor rights, and discrimination, making them central concerns of the procurement process. Just this past month, his administration went one step further.

On October 26, Ambassador Susan Rice announced a new USAID initiative to prohibit contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on LGBT grounds.

Ambassador Rice noted: “the United States also needs to do more to institutionalize efforts to promote LGBT rights. As part of that commitment, I’m pleased to note that just yesterday a new rule went into effect that explicitly prohibits discrimination by USAID contractors. This rule means that any organization that contracts with USAID must ensure that all people can benefit from its federally-funded programs, regardless of race, religion, disability—or sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s a major step towards ensuring that American assistance is provided in a fair and equitable manner.” Continue reading. “Despite Progress, Challenges Persist for Implementation of Human Rights Reforms in Federal Contracting”

October 31, 2016 •

The Importance of Supply Chain Transparency in Public Procurement of Apparel: A Call to Action for the Obama Administration

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By Nicole Vander Meulen
Legal and Policy Associate, ICAR

“It’s like you are working with no hope because you are doing work that can’t sustain your life.”

These words, said by a factory worker in Haiti, reflect a reality on the ground in the production of goods that ultimately end up in the hands of the U.S. government. Working in a factory that, as of 2013, produced camouflage clothing for the U.S. government, this laborer describes not having access to potable water during work and being paid wages so low that he could not afford to buy shoes. “It’s a task for the U.S. government, which advocates the rule of law, to watch how these clothes are being made,” he says. “But I don’t think it is watching this.”

This worker’s story is not unusual. In another harrowing example, a labor organizer working at a factory in Bangladesh that produced uniforms for the U.S. General Services Administration was arrested by police and tortured in 2010. He was then found dead, with clear signs of foul play, in 2012. Continue reading. “The Importance of Supply Chain Transparency in Public Procurement of Apparel: A Call to Action for the Obama Administration”

October 11, 2016 •

Addressing human rights issues in supply chains – a university perspective

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By Liz Cooper
Research and Policy Manager, Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability, University of Edinburgh

Universities buy a wide range of goods and services to enable them to fulfil their roles as places of education, research and innovation. These include construction services and supplies, furniture and stationery, electronics (computers, audio visual, etc.), food and catering supplies, travel services, laboratory supplies (equipment, chemicals, pharmaceuticals etc.), books and printing, and waste and recycling services.

A large proportion of these goods and services is bought through frameworks established by collaborative consortia. With ever-more complex supply chains involving workers and organisations globally and locally, there is recognition in the university sector that there are risks of human rights abuses in the production of goods and services we buy. As well as making high level commitments to social responsibility including in relation to the protection of human rights, universities in the UK have been considering workers’ rights in supply chains for a number of years.

Steps towards a sustainable university supply chain

One development which highlights this is the Fairtrade University movement which started in the early 2000s. The University of Edinburgh became a Fairtrade University in 2004, following a student vote, and has since made commitments to fair trade procurement, awareness-raising and research.

In 2012, the University affiliated to the Worker Rights Consortium, an independent organisation concerned with monitoring working conditions in garment manufacture. Continue reading. “Addressing human rights issues in supply chains – a university perspective”