Workshop on Human Rights and Public Procurement with members of the Inter-American Network on Government Procurement


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The workshop was organized by the Organization of American States as the Technical Secretariat of the INGP, Centro Vincular of the Catholic University of Valparaíso, The Danish Institute for Human Rights, The International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) and the International Learning Lab on Public Procurement and Human Rights, with the support of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights and the Swedish Embassy in Chile.  
The starting point for the present discussion is the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), adopted unanimously by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, which are the authoritative global reference for preventing and addressing adverse human rights impacts arising from business-related activity. 

Objectives of the workshop 
  • Introduce the legal foundations of human rights law and how these apply to states, focusing on the context of public procurement and in relation to legal principles around public procurement. 
  • Look beyond the law and examine experiences relating to the economic and commercial benefits of integrating human rights into public procurement exercises.
  • Share experiences on inserting social, human rights, and environmental protections into public procurement exercises
  • Discuss how INGP could support further integration of human rights in public procurement in the INGP and define further steps and commitments. 

Main conclusions of the workshop 

Looking beyond the law to examine economic and commercial benefits of integrating human rights into public procurement cycle 
Beyond the obligation of states to promote protect human rights and promote respect for human rights by business enterprises with which they conduct commercial transactions through their procurement activities and through the provision of public services, as stated in chapter B, integrating human rights issues within the government procurement cycle has other benefits for the state and for the government institutions that conduct procurement activities.  
Public procurement represents an opportunity for states to lead by example. If states are committed to promote responsible business conduct and respect of human rights by the enterprises that operate within their jurisdiction, there is a unique opportunity to influence the market and create demand for responsible and sustainable products and services, given the huge state´s purchasing power and leverage. Creating a demand for responsible and sustainable products and services will create competition that will drive prices down for this kind of products and services and increase the size of the market around such good and services. 
Avoiding reputational risks for states and its representatives. It is embarrassing for the state and its representatives to have to admit that their purchasing activities are directly or indirectly affecting human rights, without having mechanisms in place that safeguard people’s rights from being negatively affected by state’s commercial partners. This can undermine the credibility of the government with respect to its commitments in protecting and respecting human rights in the framework of business activities, affecting the confidence of society towards a state’s institutions.
Gaining efficiencies and avoiding operational risks within procurement procedures. Having commercial and sourcing partners in value chains where human right risks exist is itself a risk to those undertaking the procurement exercise. If human rights violations and abuses occur it can cause sourcing interruptions and delays, it can waste time and capacity in addressing contractual and legal issues, it can cost to address the violations and abuses with the company, and if the contract ultimately cannot be fulfilled or is cancelled, and can cost to undertake a new procurement exercise. These all entail costs which impacts upon the efficiency and effectiveness of government procurement.  
As a matter of policy coherence, it is important to make sure that citizens’ taxes used by the state to purchase services and goods won’t negatively impact its own citizens or others in different parts of the globe, just for the sake of prioritizing the cheapest procurement option. Public purchasing policies should be aligned to state’s commitments towards human rights.  
Government procurement can be a very effective tool to reach sustainable development and the Agenda 2030

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