22 February 2021

An international webinar to mark the second anniversary of the signing of the Abidjan Principles was celebrated on February 12th, 2021, bringing together many of the experts involved in the development of the Principles alongside multilevel human rights experts, education actors, and civil society representatives.

Since their signing in February 2019 by a group of 57 international experts following a participatory three-year consultation period, the Abidjan Principles have become a reference text on the right to education. They provide a series of widely recognised guidelines on the practical implementation of the right to education in the contemporary context, particularly in relation to the rise of private actors in education.

Speakers at the event reflected on the ways in which the principles have been used at different levels and by different actors, the progress they have enabled, and the challenges still to be addressed, particularly in light of the ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic.

The webinar, hosted by the Abidjan Principles Secretariat and moderated by Joshua Castellino, Executive Director & Professor of Law at Minority Rights Group International, included comment and reflection from the following participants:

  • Professor Ann Skelton,  Chair of the Abidjan Principles drafting committee and Professor of Private Law, University of Pretoria;
  • Dr Koumba Boly Barry, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to education;
  • Soledad García Muñoz, Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights - Inter-American Commission on Human Rights;
  • Hélène Ferrer, Head of Gender, education, population and youth unit Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, France;
  • Hon. Lady Justice Lydia Mugambe ,  High Court Judge, Uganda;
  • Professor Aoife Nolan, Vice-President of the European Committee of Social Rights;
  • Dr Elaine Unterhalter,  Professor of Education and International Development, Institute of Education, University College London;
  • Ram Gaire Program Manager, National Campaign for Education - Nepal;
  • Stéphane Vigneault, Coordinator,  Mouvement L’école ensemble, Quebec;
  • Amélie Gagnon, Head of Development Unit,  UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning.

In addition, the event saw the launch of the final video in a five video series developed to coincide with the second anniversary. 

The diverse backgrounds of the speakers allowed for an exploration of the ways in which the Abidjan Principles have been used in multiple settings, including by supranational entities, in national justice systems, in academia and by civil society and campaigning groups. Significant focus was afforded to the unprecedented achievements of the Principles over the past two years, which encompass rapid recognition by eight U.N. and regional human rights bodies and mandate-holders.

However, numerous speakers raised their concerns over the extent to which the Covid 19 pandemic has underscored global inequalities while simultaneously preventing the enjoyment of the right to education, and in many contexts catalysing the role played by non-state actors. The role that the Principles must have in ensuring states meet their obligations with regards the right to education was unanimously agreed. The event concluded on a note of celebration, as participants and speakers shared views and aspirations on the ways in which the Abidjan Principles will enable greater access to the right to education in the coming years. 

To watch the event recording, please see below: 

For more information on the Abidjan Principles, please see here.