In Geneva, during the June session of the Human Rights Council, civil society organisations, including the Right to Education Project, participated in a series of events to discuss the important issue of the growing trend of privatisation in education and its impact on the right to education.
Privatisation poses many challenges from a human rights perspective. Wealth inequalities between those who can afford to pay for private education and those who cannot, as well as exclusion across gender and ethnic lines, are often exacerbated by privatisation. These consequences are pushing already vulnerable groups deeper into poverty and deepening social divisions, calling into question the State’s core obligation to provide quality public education for all.
To raise awareness on these issues within the United Nations Forum and debate different experiences of privatisation in education across the globe from a human rights perspective, the Privatisation in Education Research Initiative (PERI) and the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR), with the support of the Open Society Foundations - Education Programme Support (OSF-EPS), organised a three-day meeting with the aim of identifying priorities for research, analysis and advocacy.
On the morning of 12th June, the Portuguese Mission, together with PERI and GI-ESCR, convened a side-event on privatisation and its impact on the right to education at Palais des Nations. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Kishore Singh, opened the discussion and reiterated the State’s obligations to protect, respect and fulfil the right to education. He expressed his concern about the growth of privatisation in education, which increases inequalities and discriminations. The other speakers then provided an overview of the global trends, multiple manifestations and common concerns (Toni Verger, Centre for Globalisation, Education, Societies and Policy, Autonomous University of Barcelona) and shared concrete examples from Brazil (Iracema Nascimento dos Santos, Brazilian Campaign for the Right to Education), Morocco (Sylvain Aubry, Human Rights Consultant) and India (Anjela Taneja, Global Campaign for Education), and finally highlighted the impacts of privatisation on teachers (Mireille de Koning, Education International). The event was a success, and over fifty people participated - including State representatives and members of UN Treaty bodies (Committee on the Rights of Child and Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights).
In the afternoon, an expert meeting was organised to further discuss the issue of privatisation and the right to education. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education also participated in this meeting, which gathered academics, civil society organisations, States and UN agencies working in a range of fields including education, human rights, development, humanitarian assistance and sociology. There were interesting contributions that emphasised the failure of the States to provide a good quality public education. On this occasion, the Foro Chileno por el Derecho a la Educación – through CLADE, informed the UN Special Rapporteur about privatisation and the situation of the right to education in Chile. GI-ESCR is preparing a report of this meeting to be submitted to the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education and shared publically.
On 13th and 14th June a strategy meeting was organised for civil society organisations from various countries that are on the front line of the fight for the right to education, including: Ação Educativa, Africa Network Campaign on Education for All (ANCEFA), Arab Campaign for Education for All (ACEA), Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education (ASPBAE), Brazilian Campaign for the Right to Education , Education International, Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC), Global Campaign for Education (GCE), GI-ESCR, Latin-American Campaign for the Right to Education (CLADE), Privatisation in Education Research Initiative (PERI), RESULTS Educational Fund, Right to Education Project, and SECTION27, as well as representatives from academia (Globalisation, Education and Social Policies). The aims of this two-day workshop were to reinforce understanding of the meaning of the right to education in the context of privatisation; to build capacity on using international human rights mechanisms for local impact; to build capacity on using human rights law and indicators in monitoring and reporting on the right to education to use international mechanisms; to discuss the potential for advocacy plans of action - including UN human rights mechanisms for national CSOs; and to start a participatory discussion on the set of standards applicable to privatisation in education.
After three days of intensive debates and experience sharing, the organisations reaffirmed the importance of collective actions to face the issue of privatisation in education, and established a plan of action to be implemented over the next three years.