9 January 2024

On 14 December 2023, a Formal Dialogue on the Initiative on the evolving right to education brought together state representatives, members of global civil society, UN representatives, youth, practitioners, and experts. Celebrated to mark the 63rd anniversary of the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education and as a contribution to the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this formal dialogue was jointly organised by UNESCO, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

This event was situated in UNESCO’s wider Initiative on the evolving right to education, which seeks to understand how the right to education applies in our new and ever changing global context. It explores how the right to education, as enshrined in international normative instruments, could be further reinforced to meet evolving needs of our societies. 

The in-person and online event was divided into two interactive discussions. The first, chaired by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, was entitled ‘Expanding rights and obligations to ensure equitable inclusive learning throughout life’. Addressing access to early childhood education and care, free education, inclusive education, youth participation and education governance, inputs were heard from Dylan Yap, a youth activist from the Philippines; Ann Skelton, Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child; Luke Pye, Coordinator, INEE; and Isabel Flores, Executive Director, Institute for Public and Social Policies of ISCTE-University of Lisbon, Portugal. 

The second interactive discussion focused on ‘Strengthening the legal framework on right to education in light of new and emerging realities’. Moderated by Borhene Chakroun, Director for the Division for Policies and Lifelong Learning Systems, UNESCO, the discussion provided a forum for views, insights and perspectives on strengthening the international legal framework on the right to education considering emerging realities, and focused on the relevance of education and the new and emerging challenges that confront it, for example, the digitization in education, new demands being posed on teachers and the resilience of education systems in the face of crises. 

Panellists included Michael Fung, Executive director at the Institute for the Future of Education; Gina Pancorbo, Coordinator of Research, Policy and Advocacy at Education International; Fanny Rotino, Child rights specialist, child online protection Officer at ITU; and Oyunaa Purevdorj, Acting Director of Education Policy and Planning Department, Ministry of Education and Science, Mongolia.

RTE attended this event in person, and added insights into the discussion during the second panel in which we focused on the aims of education as extending beyond the utilitarian to encompass the full development of individuals; the importance of building upon existing interpretations of international law; and the essential character of the rights to equality and non-discrimination, which are the backbone of the right to education. 

Finally, the third session provided space for an open dialogue with state delegations, which focused on institutional modalities and possible next steps for the evolving right to education. Moderated by Borhene Chakroun and Farida Shaheed, interventions were offered by Nigeria and Brazil, among others. 

A general agreement was reached at the end of dialogue to begin the process of expanding the international normative framework on education, but to do so ensuring that there is coherence and alignment with the vision put forward at the Transforming Education Summit's vision. Key aspects of this vision are enhancing the state obligations on education quality, equity and inclusion, and moving  towards universal access to free education.

Our thanks to UNESCO for this important meeting, which marks a pivotal step in the process to understand and redefine the right to education, to ensure it meets the needs of our constantly evolving world. 


Read UNESCO's summary of the event.

Read UNESCO's working paper 'Bringing into focus the future of the right to education: Policy-oriented research paper as part of the Initiative on the evolving right to education'.