© Don Loriezo
Delphine Dorsi
29 November 2019

RTE’s director, Delphine Dorsi, participated in the dinner organised for the 10thanniversary of Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict (PEIC), a programme of Education Above All, where she delivered a speech. The moderator asked her the following question: ‘You have been working for the right to education for more than 10 years now with UN agencies and civil societies. Can you tell us about any gap you’ve witnessed between the global governance and grassroots? What is the role of an NGO to fill this gap?’ Read her response, below.

One of the major gaps is the gap between words and reality.  

The words are states’ legal and political commitments to the right to education, such as their commitment to provide free, quality public education. 

We all say we care about the right to education – including us ‘talking’ tonight about its importance and celebrating a programme that aims to protect it.

All policy makers recognise education as a human right and committed to make it a reality for all. But for centuries it has been the privilege of few. This is because education is a key pillar for the wellbeing and development of both individuals and society - having a much wider role than just responding to employment and economic needs. Education provides the skills individuals need to develop their personality and make their path through life in a free and autonomous way, and to participate effectively in society.

It also plays a key role in building fair and peaceful societies contributing, for instance, to social integration and the understanding of differences – which is essential in times of conflict and massive migration.

The reality is:

  • 1-in-6 children and youth are out-of-school. 
  • And half of those in school do not receive an education of good quality. 
  • Education is far for being free, even at primary level
  • The most impacted are the ones who most need it, including migrants and people from very low incomes families 

There is a gap between intention and will:

  • States don’t finance education enough – either domestically or through international assistance – while we could fill the gap by putting in place fair and progressive taxation and resolving the issue of debt and removing austerity measures.
  • States also withdraw from their responsibility to provide education, relying instead on increasing involvement of private actors raising serious human rights concerns. 

NGOs, such as the Right to Education Initiative, play an important role in building bridges between the global governance and grassroots, contributing to accelerate the realisation of the right to education for all. A great example is the adoption of the Abidjan Principles on the right to education last February by experts following a three years consultative process facilitated by NGOs and involving a wide range of education actors from states to local communities - with the aim to move from rhetoric to practice providing concrete guidance on how to implement the right to education in the current global education context. They have already been arecognised by several intergovernmental bodies, including the UN Human Rights Council and was selected last week at the Paris Peace Forum as one of the most promising governance projects, showing the importance of human rights in current education debates and the usefulness of legal instruments. 

In shaping the future of education, we must include children and youth. They have words to say and ideas to share about the policies and concrete measures needed to respond to challenges we all face. They are already in the front line, asking our governments to take their responsibilities and make the right decisions for the future of our humanity. Education plays a key role in providing them with the necessary skills to adapt and participate in a fast-changing world.

It is essential to empower them to claim their rights, and in doing so, ensure we reach the most vulnerable and marginalised, including those living in contexts of conflicts and migration.

That’s why I am very happy RTE is exploring collaboration with PEIC to develop a youth-friendly toolkit to empower refugee youth with the knowledge and skills to advocate for the right to education and the building of peace.

Nelson Mandela said: ’Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world’. As we celebrate today the 10thanniversary of PEIC and the 30th anniversary of the Convention of the rights of the child, I wish we will do everything possible to close the gap between words and reality.

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