11 March 2019

On 6 March, RTE participated in a side-event on the margins of the 40th session of the Human Rights Council on Education in the 2030 agenda - Leaving no one behind: children with disabilities, girls, forcibly displaced children and minorities. The event was organised by the Education Above All Foundation in partnership with the permanent missions of the state of Qatar, Argentina, Belgium, Japan, Singapore, Uruguay and the support from the OHCHR, GCPEA, the Right to Education Initiative and Child Rights Connect.

The side event was successful, as participants and panellists reflected on the protection of the right to education of the most vulnerable and marginalized, as well as suggested ways forward based on best practices.

Some of the presentations, including from RTE, the former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Dr. Kishore Singh, ILO, Plan International, Global Education Cluster and Lead Researcher on GEM 2019 are available here. Read RTE's statement delivered by Erica Murphy below.


International human rights law is clear that the right to education applies to everyone, at all times. No one loses their human rights in an emergency, because they cross a border, are forcibly displaced, or voluntarily migrate.

In practice, this means that states have well-defined obligations to ensure the right to education through laws, policies, and other measures. For instance, eliminating discrimination and fostering ‘inclusive education’ whereby the education system accommodates and adapts to the specific needs of learners, and not the other way round. 

Rightly, a lot of what’s been said today has focused on the normative content of the right to education, that is, what the right to education means when applied to the specific needs of certain groups. But what underpins and strengthens all aspects of the right to education is accountability.

International law is unequivocal that states must implement the right to education in a way that allows for duty-bearers to be held responsible where there are observed gaps between performance and human rights obligations.

States have a legal obligation to ensure the right to education is implemented in a manner that ensures that internally displaced persons, migrants, refugees, girls, people with disabilities, and all people can effectively exercise and claim their rights. An important element of ensuring accountability is providing avenues for people to hold duty-bearers accountable when the right to education is violated, whether through courts, tribunals, or administrative mechanisms.

This may sound aspirational but it is actually part of what states must do to effectively realise the right to education and it is also a human right itself: the right to access justice, the right to a fair hearing, the right to an effective remedy, etc. These rights, like the right to education, don’t disappear if you’re a migrant, refugee, or IDP. In fact, they’re even more important because it is these people whose rights are most likely to be violated.

In order to fulfil this right, states must create a legal right to education. However, our research shows that only 55% of states constitutionally protect the right to education, which in practice is probably even lower, given the myriad barriers rights-holders may face in accessing justice, for example, the lack of legal aid provision.

A good example to highlight is the approach taken by France where the right to education is legally enforceable in courts. But parents can also take their claims to local administrative bodies and the national ombudsperson. All three avenues are competent to overturn discriminatory decisions that exclude migrants from the public education system.

Where states cannot ensure accountability due to conflict, for example, international human rights mechanisms and states through international assistance have an enhanced responsibility to contribute to the upholding of rights.


Without accountability there is impunity. The right to education will never be fully realised until accountability mechanisms are put in place. But this is not an easy task for states. To guide the process, the Right to Education Initiative together with Unesco, have recently published the Right to education handbook. So do please come see me later if you’d like a copy. Thank you.