Public Procurement and Human Rights

Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 March 2021

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) recognises the significant role of the private sector in the provision of goods, facilities and services. In many instances, government departments and other public authorities will have purchased these goods and services. In doing so, they must ensure the protection and promotion of human rights.

Private companies contracted by government departments or public authorities, and, in particular, those who carry out service delivery to the general public, may make decisions or take actions that affect human rights. In such circumstances the services must be delivered mindful of the continuing need to maximise the enjoyment of human rights and prevent abuses.

At the United Nations (UN), considerable work has already been undertaken to provide governments and businesses with guidance on how to best tackle these issues. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), unanimously endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, are a set of standards for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity. In 2013 the United Kingdom (UK) government adopted an Action Plan in which it made a strong commitment towards implementing the UNGPs throughout the UK.

Recognising the importance of the subject matter, the NIHRC has developed this report to advise on the applicable human rights standards in the context of procurement. It aims to engage government departments, other relevant public authorities and private companies, to promote awareness of the important relationship between human rights and business in Northern Ireland. The report does not claim to represent a comprehensive examination of all issues but is intended to initiate a discussion on the relevant topics.

The NIHRC is extremely grateful to the Danish Institute for Human Rights for their work in assisting the development of this report.

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