Government spending and human rights

The role of procurement in ensuring respect for human rights has been mentioned on the blog before. In the Irish Centre for Human Rights’ 2012 report on business and human rights in Ireland, we made the following recommendation:

The Government of Ireland should require human rights compliance and reporting by business to be an eligibility criterion for public procurement contracts or State investment.

The NGO Participation and Practice of Rights, have put some figures on how much money is spent on goods and services annually: around £2bn is spent each year on public procurement in Northern Ireland, and £11bn across the whole island of Ireland:

The vast amounts of money involved and the fact that it comes from the public provides government with an important opportunity.  This money can assist government to fulfil their human rights obligation to progressively realise the right to housing, health, employment and education. Government bodies can use their purchasing power to make private companies act in certain ways that are of benefit to disadvantaged groups and society as a whole.

They have produced a short video explaining how this can work and some achievements to date (Procurement, Human Rights & Equality). As far as I can make out, neither the National Procurement Service nor the National Public Procurement Policy Unit of Ireland’s Department of Finance consider human rights or social issues when tendering for goods or services. There is no good reason why they shouldn’t, and very good reasons why they should.

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