At international, regional and national level, there are human rights mechanisms which monitor the implementation of the right to education and can be used to report violations of the right to education or gaps in its implementation.
Provided below is more information on how to report to international human rights mechanisms (UN treaty bodies, Human Rights Council, UN Special Rapporteur, UNESCO Committee on Conventions and Recommendations) as well as to regional and national human rights mechanisms.
UN treaty bodies are derived from various international treaties (conventions, covenants) and oversee the implementation of their provisions through four main functions: (i) review of periodic reports submitted by States; (ii) clarification and interpretation of the relevant treaty through the adoption of general comments; (iii) examination of complaints (only after all possible remedies have been exhausted); (iv) inquiries into grave or systematic violations.
The Committees base their review on interactive dialogue with the State and also on information received by other UN bodies/Agencies – such as UNESCO, and NGOs – through shadow reports, thus offering civil society organisations an entry point and an avenue for lobbying and strategising at the international level. Treaty bodies take shadow reports very seriously as they provide solid evidence on how the State has or has not followed through on its obligations.
Once the treaty body has both the State report and the shadow reports, they hold a session and allow time for the State and civil society to draw attention to the main points in their reports. The treaty bodies create a list of issues – which is just a list of further questions to the State. The State prepares a written response and then the treaty body issues concluding observations. These concluding observations highlight both the positive ways in which the State has implemented the treaty and the areas of concern – with some recommendations. These concluding observations have improved over the years and there are some really good opportunities for advocacy.
General comments drafted by the treaty bodies are based on their findings from State reports and shadow reports. So, reporting to the treaty bodies generates further interpretation of the law, which can be used.
The UN treaty bodies most relevant to the right to education are:
- The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)
- The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
- The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
- The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
- The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
- The Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW)
- The Human Right Committee (HRC)
For more information on each Committee see the page International Human Rights Mechanisms.
The CRC and the CESCR are the first Committees that should be targetted to report violations of the right to education. However, other Committees, such as CEDAW and CRPD are also very relevant to report on issues related to the right to education of specific groups. Also, the Human Rights Committee can play a role in monitoring the civil and political rights affecting education, such as religious freedom, freedom of expression (including academic freedom), teacher trade union issues, violence against children (including corporal punishment), and the freedom of civil society to engage and work on the right to education. It is also worth mentioning the role of the Committee against Torture in monitoring and guiding States’ compliance on the prohibition of corporal punishment in schools.
It is worth remembering that committees are only competent to receive reports from States that have ratified the treaty in question. It is also worth mentioning that not all treaty bodies can hear complaints, this is because some of them have not entered into force and because in some cases, the State must formally accept the competence of the committee to receive complaints.
To find out when your country will be examined, see the website of each committee.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a peer-review process carried out by governmental representatives. Each State is reviewed every four years on its overall human rights records rather than on a particular treaty. This monitoring process offers the opportunity for civil society actors to submit alternative short contributions.
However, being a political body, its impact may be manipulated for ulterior motives and thus be less effective than other mechanisms though it is still important for some international naming and shaming strategies.
For more information on the Universal Periodic Review, see the page on International Human Rights Mechanisms
To find out when your country will be examined, see the UPR web page.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education has the mandate to assess the state of the right to education worldwide. Through both thematic and country reports, the Special Rapporteur not only examines and monitors the implementation of the right to education but also refines the understanding of key aspects and provides recommendations for further actions.
The Special Rapporteur can receive individual complaints on alleged violations of the right to education. To the limit of his/her available resources, he/she writes to the concerned government, inviting comment on the allegation, seeking clarification, reminding it of its obligations under international law and requesting information, where relevant, on steps being taken by the authorities to redress the situation in question. The Special Rapporteur urges all Parties to respond promptly to his/her communications and to take all steps necessary to redress situations involving the violation of the right to education. Communications from the Special Rapporteur to the government are confidential at the initial stage until the summary of the letters and the answer of the government are included in addendum 1 of the annual report submitted to the Human Rights Council.
A complaint can be submitted by:
Fax: +41 22 917 90 06
Postal mail: OHCHR-UNOG
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Details about the information to provide can be found, here,
UNESCO Committee on the Convention and Recommendation examines cases of human rights violations within UNESCO’s field of competence, including the right to education, through its communications and complaints procedures. This is a confidential procedure which aims to find an amicable solution to cases brought to UNESCO’s attention. More information here.
In addition, the Committee monitors the implementation of UNESCO legal instruments - including two Conventions and seven recommendations in the field of education – by examining reports received from Member States. In this process, UNESCO also collects information on the implementation of the right to education from various partners of the Organisations such as non-governmental organisation (see the Decision of the Executive Board, 177 EX/Decision 35).
Regional human rights systems also provide mechanisms to monitor the right to education. These are derived from the relevant regional treaties and include among others the European Committee of Social Rights, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Their functions are similar to the international equivalents, encompassing review of periodic reports, examination of individual complaints and interpretation of treaty provisions. In addition, some sub-regional bodies, such as the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have also adopted decisions and provided interpretations relevant for the right to education.
It is important to always remember to check the applicability of relevant treaties to certain State parties; whether all internal remedies have been exhausted; and if the right to education can be discussed under other entry points.
For more information, see the page on Regional Human Rights Mechanisms
At national level, there are often human rights bodies to which you can report such as National Human Rights Institutions or ombudspersons.
National Human Rights Institutions have the mission to promote and protect human rights domestically. They are funded by the State and work with the government to ensure that laws and policies comply with international human rights standards. They may also receive and investigate individual complaints.
An ombudsperson is an independent person, who serves as a mediator between the State and the civil society. An ombudsperson can receive and investigate individual complaints and make recommendations or facilitate mediation. Sometimes they can identify trends and systematic issues related to poor public services or rights violations. In some countries, there may be ombudsperson who have a more restricted or specific mandate, such as the ombudsperson for children. Also there may be an ombudsperson for education issues.
At local level, there may be school boards or school management committees you can contact to address complaints. It is often best to start by contacting them as most of the gaps in fulfilling the right to education can be addressed at the micro or local level and do not require national or international mechanisms to resolve them. They may also be more willing to listen to complaints and find solutions than national bodies.