The Role of the State as a Buyer under Principle 6 UNGPs

Our submission to the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights is now available as a BHRE Policy Paper. In response to the UN Working Group consultation on “The State as an economic actor: the role of economic diplomacy tools to promote business respect of human rights”, Dr. Claire Methven O'Brien and Dr. Olga Martin-Ortega prepared a detailed working paper which highlights how little consideration has been given to the human rights impacts of the central state and other public bodies in terms of their role as a consumer, by comparison, for instance, to that focused on transnational corporations via their supply chains. This lack of policy coherence, we argue, undermines fulfillment of the UN Framework and UNGPs, both directly, as governments fail to require their own suppliers to respect human rights, and indirectly, as governments weaken the “business case” for companies to respect human rights and due diligence, by failing to send the right market signals and undermine the moral case because they fail to lead by example. The submission addresses the gap by starting to clarify states’ human rights responsibilities regarding public procurement in line with the UNGPs and identifying emerging good practices through which public buyers can fulfil these responsibilities while still meeting their organisational needs. It aims to support the implementation of UNGP6 by highlighting measures to operationalise the state “duty to protect” and the “corporate responsibility to respect” in the context of public procurement. It also highlights the need to integrate human rights into public procurement as essential to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The submission presents recommendations for states and other procurement regulators, and other relevant stakeholders, including national human rights institutions (NHRIs), civil society organisations (CSOs), the UN system and  business  associations regarding the further development of public procurement as an element of the obligation to protect human rights in the context of business operations. 

For more information on our work on Procurement and Human Rights check our webpage and the International Learning Lab on Public Procurement and Human Rights