For further information on the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights please visit https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Forum/Pages/2019ForumBHR.aspx

For further information on the work of the Working Group on Business and Human Rights please visit https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/WGHRandtransnationalcorporationsandotherbusiness.aspx 
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Tuesday, November 26 • 11:40 - 13:00
Promoting respect for human rights through sustainable public procurement

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Interpretation provided in English, French and Spanish

Organized by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Danish Institute for Human Rights in collaboration with the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights

Governments are the largest buyers of goods and services and public works, with public procurement accounting for €1000 billion per year worldwide, and approximately 12 percent of GDP in OECD countries.[1] Individual governments are amongst the largest single purchasers operating in the global marketplace, with a correspondingly high potential to influence on conditions and practices across a wide range of sectors, including construction, defence, healthcare, ICT, food and apparel. Public procurement thus represents an enormous opportunity to promote respect for human rights and sustainable business practices globally.

According to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) the state duty to protect human rights extends to public purchasing activities. In addition, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has set new objectives on public procurement, as part of the drive towards sustainable production and consumption and more inclusive economies.[2]  Sustainable Development Goal 12.7 calls on all countries to promote sustainable public procurement practices and to implement sustainable public procurement policies and action plans. In parallel, important global actors, including the OECD, ILO and EU are promoting a renewed focus on “responsible global value chains” as key to sustainable and inclusive growth – with a strong emphasis on the contribution of the private sector, through responsible business conduct (RBC) [3] and the decent work agenda, in achieving this goal.

Ensuring value for money is still a fundamental principle underpinning the public procurement process. However, the concept of value for money has been ever evolving to encompass a wider range of considerations such as environmental, economic and social aspects. Yet a growing concern relates to the fact that many of the products governments buy are produced in countries where there is a higher risk for human and labour rights violations, particularly within supply chains. Recently light has been shed on different sectors providing products for the public sector such as medical goods and instruments, ICT equipment, food.[4] As of today, procurement law, policy frameworks and actual government purchasing practices, are still not aligned with the UNGPs, the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda or initiatives on responsible global value chains.

The buying power of governments should be an important lever for promoting social and environmental outcomes. Governments are expected to lead by example by incorporating these standards in their purchasing policies. This is not only in the public interest, but also ensures accountability of public spending. While there are increasing international commitments that link public procurement to social and environmental outcomes there is a lack of practical implementation.

Aims and objectives
The session will scope opportunities and challenges for leadership and leverage in securing respect for human rights in and through public procurement.

Its overall aims and objectives are to:
  • Increase awareness and highlight human rights opportunities and risks relevant to public supply chains 
  • Trigger public and private actors to exercise greater leadership and leverage in addressing human rights abuses in government supply chains.
  • Trigger increased multi-stakeholder collaboration to address human rights impacts associated with public procurement 
  • Scope links and synergies between public procurement policy frameworks and concrete initiatives in support of the UNGPs, SDGs and responsible global value chains 
Format and participtation
Panel followed by interaction with other participants. Interventions from the floor will include, among others:
  • OSCE – Val Richey, Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings
  • EU DG Grow – Alezandra Kuxova

Refreshments and update on OECD's programme on RBC and public procurement
After the session, the OECD will host a lunch and provide further information about its new programme on Responsible Business Conduct and Public Procurement (link to program http://www.oecd.org/governance/public-procurement/procurement-and-RBC/ ).  This session will take place in Room XIX from 13:00-14.30. Refreshments will be made available outside the room. Those interested in participating please contact Pauline.gothberg@oecd.org.

[1] OECD, Government at a Glance 2017, OECD Publishing, Paris; A significant portion of public procurement takes place at the sub-national level (state and municipal levels) 62% of the public procurement spending in OECD countries is estimated to be spent at the sub-central level (2015).  
[2] https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg3, https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf

[3] RBC principles and standards set out an expectation that all businesses – regardless of their legal status, size, ownership or sector – avoid and address negative impacts of their operations, while contributing to the sustainable development in the countries where they operate. RBC means that companies should integrate and consider environmental and social issues as part of core business activities, including in their supply chain and business relationships. 
[4] NGOs and media have reported that medical gloves and condoms produced for the healthcare sector is linked to forced labour in Malaysia, (The Guardian (2018) NHS rubber gloves made in Malaysian factories linked with forced labour), There has also been reports that children as young as 12 years are producing surgical instrument in Sialkot Pakistan in hazardous working conditions and are paid less than one USD a day (Svenska Dagbl

avatar for Claire Methven O’Brien

Claire Methven O’Brien

Strategic Adviser, Human Rights and Business, Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR)
Dr. Claire Methven O’Brien is Chief Adviser at the Danish Institute for Human Rights. Claire is a barrister called to the London Bar, Honorary Lecturer at the University of St. Andrews School of Management and a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Groningen’s Department... Read More →

avatar for Carlos Busquets

Carlos Busquets

Director de Politicas Publicas / Public Policy Director, Responsible Business Alliance (RBA)

Christine Kaufmann

Chair, OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct
Christine Kaufmann is the Chair of the OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct, the intergovernmental committee overseeing the implementation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the comprehensive international framework for Responsible Business Conduct... Read More →

Björn Claeson

Director, Electronics Watch
avatar for Ilse Beneke

Ilse Beneke

, Head of the Competence Centre for Sustainable Procurement at the Procurement, Office of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Germany
Ilse Beneke is head of the Competence Centre for sustainable procurement at the procurement office of the federal ministry of the interior. With a team of 6 people, her job at the Competence Centre is to foster the implementation of sustainability aspects in public procurement in... Read More →

Pablo Seitz

Director, DNCP
avatar for Sope Williams-Elegbe

Sope Williams-Elegbe

Deputy Director, Africa Procurement law Unit, Stellenbosch University
Public procurement law professor, with interest in anti-corruption, sustainable development, international trade and development procurement, with a focus on Africa.

Tuesday November 26, 2019 11:40 - 13:00 CET
Room XIX