10 April 2023

In March 2023, the Right to Education Initiative and nine partner organisations submitted a joint submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in response to the body’s review of the United Kingdom’s compliance with its human rights obligations as regards economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to education.  

The submitting organisations, which in addition to RTE comprised ActionAid; Coalition for Transparency and Accountability in Education (Liberia); East African Centre for Human Rights (EACHRights, Kenya), Eurodad, Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Global Justice Now; Initiative for Economic and Social Rights (ISER, Uganda); RESULTS UK; and the World Organization for Early Childhood Education-OMEP, raised concerns regarding the consequences of the funding provided by the UK to support commercial and for profit schools abroad. 

We responded to the UK’s position that international development cooperation can support non-state providers, including low cost private schools. We drew upon applicable international human rights frameworks to challenge this position, among them the Abidjan Principles. The brief also notes the growing consensus that public development assistance should not support for-profit education. Finally, it raises concerns regarding the impact on the right to education of the UKs corporate tax policies. Alongside the submission of our report, our Director Delphine Dorsi delivered an oral statement during the Pre Sessional Working group briefing with regard to the UK.

In our brief we suggested the following question: 

What is the methodology followed to conduct human rights impact assessments of non-state providers – including paid-for schools and low-cost private schools – what are the results and are they publicly available (if yes, where can they be accessed)? 

In early April, CESCR acknowledged the concerns we and others raised, and asked the UK to provide more information on a series of topics. One of the questions it has asked the UK directly relates to the question included in our brief and listed above:

4. ‘Please indicate the measures taken to meet the target of allocating 0.7 per cent of the State party’s gross national income to development assistance, and by how much the grant element of the bilateral aid to least developed countries was increased during the reporting period. In light of paragraphs 18 to 20 of the State party’s report on international development cooperation, please provide information on the findings of the social and human rights assessments conducted in the implementation of programs and projects in the field of education services abroad and how those findings have contributed to ensuring transparency and accountability for non-state providers of education services, including low-cost private schools. Please provide information on the measures taken to establish an effective monitoring mechanism to regularly assess the impacts of low-cost and private education projects on the quality of free public education in the receiving countries and to take remedial actions when required.’

The UK has until 29 March 2024 to respond in writing to this, and other questions detailed on this list of issues here. We will monitor the UK’s response, and if relevant will submit a parallel report following the State’s presentation of responses. CESCR will then issue its concluding observations and recommendations to the UK.


About CESCR reporting procedures

All state parties to the UN Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights must submit regular reports to the Committee regarding the implementation of these rights. For more information on the procedures and the different steps within them, consult CESCR’s reporting guidelines here.