To mark international human rights day on 10 December, the Right to Education Initiative (RTE) participated in an UNESCO webinar on ‘Transforming education through human rights’. Around 160 participants joined from more than 30 nations to participate in the event and its three parallel sessions, all of which focused on the perspectives of youth regarding the expansion or revision of the international legal framework surrounding the right to education.
Opening remarks were given by Stefania Giannini, UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Education. She discussed the significance of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and emphasised the responsibility of states to address the issues impacting on the right to education, among them poverty, climate change, war, and Covid-19. She also highlighted UNESCO’s role in steering the evolving right to education, and the significance of this initiative in ever changing panorama. Her comments were followed by those of Nada Al-Nashif, OHCHR’s Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, who discussed the importance of people, in particular young people, knowing about rights, and the significance of intergenerational dialogue to human rights protection.
Following this, a variety of participants, including Jayathma Wickramanayake, Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth and Emmanuel Ganse, Young Leader for the SDGs (Benin) gave input, before perspectives from Haiti were offered in addition to comments from Nesmy Manigat, Minister of National Education and Professional Training in Haiti. The first plenary session was closed by Christopher Castle, UNESCO’s Director for the Division for Peace and Sustainable Development, who interviewed Farida Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, addressing topics such as growing digitalization, language of instruction, education as a cultural right and privatisation.
The session then split into three parallel dialogues. Delphine Dorsi, RTE’s Executive Director, spoke in the first parallel session, ‘Youth consultation on the evolving right to education’ highlight remaining and emerging challenges in the the realisation of the right to education for all, alongside Farida Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Rolla Moumné, Programme Specialist, Right to Education Programme, UNESCO; Dylan Yap, Youth Activist, Philippines; Katie Nguyen, Consultant, Right to Education Programme, UNESCO; Peg Magnusson, Permanent Delegation of Sweden to UNESCO. More than 50 people joined this session, where issues such as the importance of increasing the right to education and moving from theory to practice were discussed alongside a discussion of different educational stages and types, including ECCE, lifelong learning and non-formal education. The importance of data protection and the right to privacy was also discussed in relation to the growing use of educational technology, as was the paramount importance of climate change education at early stages of the educational journey. Finally, participants concurred that the most marginalised must have a seat at the table regarding discussions about the future of education, including its legal protection.
All parallel sessions were reported back on by designated rapporteurs in the subsequent plenary, where debate and discussion was enjoyed by participants and panellists.