14 July 2023

On Tuesday 27 June, during the 53rd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education presented ‘Securing the right to education: advances and critical challenges‘. Her presentation can be viewed here (begining from 2 hrs 5 minutes)

This report is the first developed by Farida Shaheed since taking up the position in August 2022, and coincides with the 25th anniversary of the mandate on the right to education. The focus of the report is the achievements of former mandate holders, in particular regarding the understanding of the right to education and the concomitant obligations related to this right, as well as addressing a series of contemporary and emerging issues that need to be considered to ensure the right to education for all, at present and into the future. 

The report, which can be found in full here, was developed following a call for submissions regarding challenges and advances in the right to education over the last 25 years and into the future, to which RTE contributed. Ms Farida Shaheed’s presentation also drew on a report published in response to her visit to UNESCO, which can be found here.


UN Special Rapporteur presentation

During the presentation, the Special Rapporteur made reference to education as a public good, and reinforced the right to free, equitable and inclusive education. While looking at the challenges faced currently, she highlighted the ongoing salience of legacy issues such as exclusion and inequality. 

The right to be safe in education, a key theme in her report, was reiterated in her presentation, during which she called upon all states to sign the Safe Schools Declaration. She also raised the issue of girls’ and womens’ exclusion from education in Afghanistan, noting that this constitutes a crime against humanity. 

She noted that many states are in breach of their obligations as regards the mobilisation of domestic finance, and the protection of marginalised and vulnerable groups. The importance of early childhood care and education and the necessity of securing explicit references in international law was also highlighted.

Finally, while pledging support for the establishing of a new social contract for education and emphasising the vital role of UNESCO in determining the future of the right to education, she reiterated the sentiment from the report that this contract must be firmly grounded in two foundational principles: an expanded vision of the right to education throughout life, and a commitment to education as public good. 


State responses

During the interactive dialogue, States were supportive of the Special Rapporteur’s report and her mandate, using their interventions to highlight aspects of its findings and context specific issues. Many reinforced their commitment to education as a human right. Lifelong learning and the need to consider the digital transformations the world is undergoing and how they relate to education was also raised by several delegations. The challenges faced by female learners worldwide was highlighted by several states, with references to both Afghanistan and domestic situations. 


Collective statements

Many collective statements were offered by states. Among these included Benin and Belgium, who delivered an intervention on behalf of 37 nations which considered the importance of a comprehensive approach to education. They considered the importance of technical and vocational training; the training and employment of teachers; and the access of vulnerable groups. 

Qatar, on behalf of 57 nations, reiterated the commitment to education as a human right, while highlighting the issue of the military use of schools and continued attacks on educational facilities and the ways in which this particularly affects women and girls. 

Kazakhstan delivered a statement on behalf of 69 countries which highlighted the importance of children being given the best start in life, and of schools reflecting spaces in which they feel safe, valued, protected, and have a space to express their concerns. 


Further resources