Prof. Sope Williams-Elegbe
Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Prof. Sope Williams-Elegbe has written a chapter on this topic in the 2019 publication Public Procurement and Human Rights: Opportunities, Risks and Dilemmas for the State As Buyer
The World Bank (the Bank) is a development finance institution established by the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement to provide reconstruction aid to the countries devastated by World War II. The Bank has had a fractious relation with human rights. Whilst the Bank long ago recognised that it had some role to play in protecting and promoting human rights, this role was conceived as ensuring that “human rights are fully respected in connection with the projects it supports”. The Bank has however been less forthcoming about articulating its role in promoting human rights in countries in which it operates, and there has been reluctance by the Bank to use human rights to advance “an agenda that could present an obstacle for disbursement or increase the cost of doing business.” In other words, the Bank would not take human rights into account if this had adverse financial implications.
In terms of the way it operates, when the Bank loans money to fund projects in developing countries, the project is implemented through a procurement process conducted by public agencies in the borrower country. This process is regulated by the Bank’s procurement rules, as it is a condition of the loan agreement with the borrower that the procurement process is conducted in accordance with the Bank’s procurement regulations. Thus, the Bank provides the agreed funds to the borrower, and the borrower spends these funds in accordance with the Bank’s procurement rules, whilst the Bank supervises, but does not conduct the procurement process. In 2011, the Bank revised its procurement policies, practices and procedures. This led to the adoption of a new procurement framework, effective from 1 July 2016. The procurement framework includes new Procurement Regulations, containing instructions to borrowers implementing funded procurements.