15 July 2023

Between June 19 and July 14, the United Nations Human Rights Council held its 53rd ordinary session in Geneva. RTE attended the Human Rights Council sessions, participating in a variety of events to advance the realisation of the right to education. Additionally, we participated in the informal discussions for the drafting of the resolution on the right to education (A/HRC/53/L.10), adopted on 10 July 2023.


UN Special Rapporteur: informal dialogue with states

On 27 June, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education presented both ‘Securing the right to education: advances and critical challenges’, and the report of her visit to UNESCO. During the interactive dialogue states responded to the report with their endorsements and reflections. A more detailed report of this session can be found here.


Side event: The mandate on the Right to Education is 25

We took part in a side event led by the office of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education on 28 June, alongside Sohi Tawil from UNESCO, and Vernor Muñoz from the Global Campaign for Education. The event was moderated by Moira Faul from Norrag. Opening remarks were provided by Rui Macieira, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Portugal to the United Nations, and this was followed by an interactive dialogue between the panellists.

RTE’s Director, Delphine Dorsi,  stressed the importance of the mandate in the broader ecosystem of institutions working on education highlighting that in creating this mandate, states gave greater visibility to this right and recognised the importance of this right for the realisation of other rights. She mentioned that taking into account the huge transformation of education over the past decades, the scope of right to education should expand to cover issues such as technology in education and be reinforced in areas such as ECCE or higher education. She responded that in her view, one of the main concerns for the future is the commercialisation of education.

Farida Shaheed flagged a series of issues she intends to cover during her mandate, including teachers as educators in diverse systems; Academic freedom and freedom of expression in academic settings; Students’ safety; Assessment; Digital technology and artificial intelligence in education; Climate change and environmental degradation; Fiscal matters.

Vernor Muñoz, who was Special Rapporteur on the right to education from 2004 to 2010, spoke about the achievements which need to be reinforced, and those which are under threat. Sobhi Tawil discussed his role as an architect of the work to support the UNESCO-led International Commission on the Futures of education, including the key messages it proposes. He also discussed UNESCO’s evolving right to education initiative, including why it is important and what the organisation hopes it will achieve.


Side event: Human Rights Obligations to Provide Public Education - Strengthening the Right to Education for All: Introducing the Abidjan Principles’ Commentary

We co-hosted an event with the Global Initiative for Economic, Cultural and Social Rights on ‘Human Rights Obligations to Provide Public Education - Strengthening the Right to Education for All: Introducing the Abidjan Principles’ Commentary’. 

The objective of this panel discussion was to introduce the first part of the expert commentaries on the Abidjan Principles, which were published in May, and discuss the ongoing importance of the Abidjan Principles as a tool for realising the right to free, quality and inclusive public education for all.  

The event was chaired by RTE’s Executive Director, Delphine Dorsi. Zsuzsanna Nyitray, Program Officer on the Right to Education, Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR) introduced the Abidjan Principles and the Commentary. Sandra Fredman, Professor of the Laws of the British Commonwealth and the USA, University of Oxford presented upon Equality and non-discrimination in the application of the Abidjan Principles. Roman Zinigrad, Assistant Professor of Law at the American University of Paris discussed Obligations to Respect, Protect, and Fulfil the Right to Education in the Context of Private Involvement in education. Finally, Farida Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education offered reflections on the continued relevance of the Abidjan Principles for guiding States regarding their human rights obligations to ensure the right to free, quality, inclusive, public education for all. 


Notable developments at the Human Rights Council session

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education published a new report, ‘Securing the right to education: advances and critical challenges’. Watch the session recordings here, and read our joint written statement with GI-ESCR here.

The HRC also adopted resolution A/HRC/53/L.10 on the right to education on 10 July - read it here in EnglishSpanishFrenchArabic.