Advancing Respect for Labour Rights Globally Through Public Procurement
Politics and Governance 2017, Volume 5, Issue 4, Pages 69–79 DOI: 10.17645/pag.v5i4.1073
12 Pages Posted: 14 May 2018 Last revised: 26 Jun 2018
Date Written: October 2, 2017
Governments are mega-consumers of many manufactured products and services. As such they should in principle be able to influence workers’ rights abroad via the terms of purchase contracts. Yet historically little attention has been paid to the potential of public procurement to promote respect for labour rights globally besides the international trade law framework. Building on a limited emerging scholarship and policy developments this article addresses this gap. Section 2 considers legal definitions of public procurement and distinguishes primary and secondary aims of procurement under key international and regional procurement regimes. This highlights that, although used historically to advance labour rights domestically, these regimes have restricted public buyers’ scope to advance labour rights beyond national borders. Section 3 explores new international policy frameworks on responsible global value chains and supply chains which by contrast appear to augur the greater use of public procurement to promote labour rights globally in future. Section 4 argues, supported by analysis of the limited examples available, that public buying has the potential to positively influence labour rights in practice. Concluding, Section 5 reflects on what the more specific impacts of public procurement in this context may be, and how public buying should complement other mechanisms for improving labour conditions across supply chains, such as social clauses in trade agreements. Finally, we outline issues for further research and the future policy agenda.
Keywords: Labour rights; European Union; Public procurement; Social clauses; UNCITRAL; UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; Sustainable Development Goals, WTO
JEL Classification: H57, K23, K38, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation