The Right to Education Initiative (RTE) is an international human rights organisation focusing on the right to education. We promote education as a human right, striving for a world where everyone, without discrimination of any kind, can fully enjoy the right to education in all its dimensions.
Our vision is a world where the right to education for all becomes a reality, from early childhood to adulthood and throughout life, on the basis of the principles of non-discrimination and equality. A world where education is recognised as a human right itself in law and in practice and where all human rights in and through education are realised. A world where states and non-states actors can be held to account for their obligations and responsibilities respectively; and where civil society is empowered to play a key role to monitor its implementation.
RTE promotes education as a human right, making international and national law accessible to everybody. We conduct research and legal analysis and we develop tools and guides to help understand and effectively use human rights mechanisms to claim and enforce the right to education. We build bridges between disciplines (human rights, education and development), actors (CSOs, international organisations, academics), and language communities, linking international, national and local advocacy with practical engagements leading to positive changes on the ground.
Established in 2000 by the first UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Katarina Tomaševski, RTE was re-launched in 2008 as the 'Right to Education Project', a collaborative initiative supported by ActionAid International, Amnesty International, Global Campaign for Education, Save the Children, and Human Rights Watch. Since May 2017 the Right to Education Initiative is a charity registered in England and Wales with the charity number 1173115.
For over twenty years we have been working to ensure that education is both recognised and fully understood as a human right by all national and international laws and policy makers, and properly taken into account in decision-making processes so that all efforts – political, legal and financial – are made to progressively realize the right to education for all people.
In the period 2020-22, the specific changes we want to see include:
- A better recognition of the right to education at all levels – international, national and local – with relevant references to the human rights framework in legal and policy documents.
- Changes in national laws, policies and practices ensuring the better protection and progressive full realisation of the right to education.
- Right-holders and activists using human rights law and mechanisms to strengthen their advocacy for the right to education.
- Improved enjoyment of the right to education for rights-holders particularly with respect to those in the most vulnerable/marginalised situations.
To achieve these changes, we are focusing on four priority areas, adopting a phased approach to their implementation. These areas are:
- The right to public education and private actors’ involvement in education
- Early childhood care and education / pre-primary education
- The right to education of migrants
- The right to education in a growing digital world
The following principles apply to RTE’s work:
- education is a right and not a privilege
- the right to education is a civil, cultural, economic, political and social right and enabler of other rights. RTE draws on the full range of international instruments with a particular focus on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, promoting their implementation at the national level
- the right to education applies to both children and adults. RTE embraces a comprehensive definition of the right to education, which includes formal and non-formal education, early childhood, primary, secondary and vocational training and higher education
- RTE bases its work on a holistic vision of the right to quality education as defined under international law. Namely, education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms
- RTE draws inspiration from the 4As Framework enshrined in international law, which states that the right to education should be Available, Accessible, Acceptable, and Adaptable
- RTE promotes a human rights based approach – incorporating the principles of participation, accountability, non-discrimination, empowerment and link to the human rights legal framework
- RTE works through collaborative partnerships aimed at empowering right to education advocates and bridging the disciplines of human rights, development and education
- real change in people’s lives comes from the mobilisation of local individuals and communities. RTE works as a catalyst for change, identifying and sharing new ideas and solutions and motivating people to work together to take action for themselves
- RTE values diversity and works in a global, multi-cultural, and inclusive environment
The right to education and role of non-state actors:
- RTE has played a key role in the development of the Abidjan Principles, the reference text on the right to education adopted in February 2019 by a group of international experts
The right to education of migrants
- RTE is a member of the INEE Advocacy Working Group
- We have developed a range of materials and resources on education and migration
Early Childhood Care and Education
- We work with a series of partners to produce reports and guidance, and to collaborate in events and online fora
- We have developed a range of materials and resources on ECCE, and we are currently expanding our work in this area
- We are collaborating on the UNESCO Global Partnership Strategy for ECCE
- Since 2019, RTE has worked with Sciences Po Law School Clinic on a research and advocacy project focusing on inequalities in the higher education system in France, based on place of origin and socioeconomic status
Monitoring the right to education
We monitor and report on the right to education in a number of contexts, including:
- Monitoring the right to education and education under attack in Ukraine
- Monitoring the impact of early and unintended pregnancy on the right to education in Kenya
- RTE is a Steering Committee member of the ESCR-Net Monitoring Working Group, and a member of the RTEI advisory group
Information sharing and capacity building:
- This website is our backbone; ensuring that relevant content is uploaded and shared in four languages is at the core of our work
- We work to strengthen an online community of practice on a rights-based approach to education through an online discussion forum and blog
- We participate in civil society networks and coalitions aimed at ensuring the promoting and defending the right to education
- We provide trainings, lectures, and presentations on the right to education and RTE’s priority areas on an ad hoc basis
- We develop and collaborate on reports, guides and reference texts on the right to education
Previous projects and key documents
Delphine Dorsi – Director
Delphine is a human rights lawyer with more than 10 years experience in the field of the right to education. She joined RTE in 2012 as legal and communication officer and has led the organisation since 2014. She previously worked at UNESCO for the Right to Education Programme for 4 years. She has also worked with a number of NGOs in Europe and Africa, including: Amnesty International, Save the Children and Defence for Children International. She holds a Master's in Human Rights from the University of Strasbourg.
Natalia Dzvelaia - Finance and administrative officer
Natalia joined RTE in September 2018 as finance and administrative officer. She previously worked for the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) as finance coordinator. Prior to this Natalia was finance administrator for the Society of Genealogists (SOG). Natalia is ACCA part-qualified, holds a master's degree in teaching from State University of Tbilisi, and a postgraduate diploma in management studies from City of London College.
Eleanor Rosenbach - Communications Manager
Eleanor has a decade of experience in strategic communications, storytelling and campaigning, with a focus on human rights and social change initiatives. She joined RTE in February 2021, having previously worked with a range of national and international NGOs and organisations, including the International Organisation for Migration, MSF, and Centre for Justice and International Law. She holds a BA in English Literature and Hispanic Studies from the University of Birmingham. Currently studying an MSc in International Migration and Public Policy at the LSE, Eleanor has a particular interest in the intersection of education and migration.
Rajakumari Michaelsamy - Programme Manager (Early Childhood Care and Education)
Rajakumari is a human rights professional with over 15 years of experience in various aspects of human rights including human rights education, research, monitoring, training, intervention and advocacy. Being an ardent advocate of right to education, she has closely worked with children and educators in India from pre-primary to secondary level. She joined RTE in February 2021, and has previously worked with a range of national and international NGOs and organisations, including Pax Romana -IMCS Asia Pacific, People’s Watch-Tamil Nadu, Indian Social Institute, Child Rights and You, and Amnesty International India. She holds a Master’s degree in Human Rights from the University of Essex and a Postgraduate Diploma in International Human Rights Law from the National Law School of India University.
Hoda Awwad - Programme Officer
Hoda joined the RTE team as Programme Officer in February 2021. Her role focuses primarily on the privatisation of education and the involvement of non-state actors. Her work relies heavily on promoting the Abidjan principles. She is a legal expert, who has worked for international and local NGOs in Egypt and abroad. She holds a dual LLB in Law from universities of Paris-I Pantheon Sorbonne and Cairo University, and has a Master’s degree in International Law from the Graduate Institute of Geneva.
The executive board is RTE's governing body. It is composed of:
David Archer (Chair), Head of Public Services at ActionAid
David is Head of Public Services at ActionAid which supports human rights based approaches to development across 45 countries. He coordinates work across the ActionAid federation on civic participation, tax and fiscal justice and gender responsive public services. In the 1980s David worked on literacy programmes across Latin America inspired by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire (publishing "Literacy and Power: the Latin American Battleground” Earthscan 1990). In the 1990s he develo
ped the Reflect approach to adult learning, co-authoring “The Reflect Mother Manual” (1996) (see www.reflectionaction.org) an approach which has won 5 United Nations International Literacy Prizes over the past decade. Since 1998 David has worked on rights-based approaches to education and the building of civil society coalitions on education across Africa, Asia and Latin America. He is a co-founder and long term board member of the Global Campaign for Education and has been an elected representative for civil society on the board of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) for many years, now chairing the GPE Board’s Strategy and Impact Committee. David worked with the founder of the Right to Education project, Katarina Tomasevski – the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education and agreed to host the project, working with Amnesty International and GCE when Katarina passed away. As Chair of the RTE Board David helped navigate RTE into being a fully independent organisation
Iain Byrne, Head of the Refugee and Migrants rights team and Deputy Programme Director (ag.) in the Global Issues Programme (GIP) at Amnesty International
Iain Byrne is an international human rights lawyer with over 25 years of experience of working in the field including litigating before a range of international and regional human rights courts and bodies. He has been with the International Secretariat of Amnesty International for nearly nine years carrying out various roles including five and half years as a manager of various teams. He is currently Head of the Refugee and Migrants rights team and Deputy Programme Director (ag.) in the Global Issues Programme (GIP). Since November 2011 he has been a Researcher and Law and Policy Advisor in the Economic and Social Justice (previously Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR)) team conducting and advising on various pieces of ESCR research, most notably segregated education and housing of the Roma in Central and Eastern Europe and the state of education in South Africa. Amnesty International’s Roma work was recognised in 2016 when it was awarded the Council of Europe’s European Civil Rights Prize of the Sinti and Roma. He is a Special Advisor on Strategic Litigation and member of Amnesty International’s Litigation Committee. He has been Head of the ESCR team (2013-2017) and GIP DPD (ag.) and Director of the Gender, Sexuality and Identity Programme (ag.) in the Law and Policy Directorate. In all three management roles he has managed a range of research outputs including for major Global Campaigns.
From September 2001 until November 2011 he held various positions at INTERIGHTS, the international centre for the legal protection of human rights, including Legal Practice Director (ag.) and Senior Lawyer playing a key role in developing the organisation’s work on economic and social rights including litigation and capacity building. Since 2000 he has been a Fellow of the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex.
He has sat on numerous NGO boards and advisory groups. He is currently a trustee of the Right to Education Initiative and International Justice Resource Centre and also served as the latter’s founding Chair from 2009 until January 2018. He has previously been involved in the governance of a number of civil society networks including the Steering Committee of the Privatization of Education and Human Rights Consortium; the Executive Committee of the Euro-Med Human Rights Network, participating in the first international mission to Israel and the Occupied Territories during the second intifada and the Consortium for Street Children’s executive board as well as member of Open Society Foundation’s public health programme technical advisory committee.
Dina Hashem, Associate Director for Global Partnerships at Habitat for Humanity International
Dina Hashem works as Associate Director for Global Partnerships at Habitat for Humanity International responsible for leveraging complex funding primarily through foundations and institutional partnerships for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region to meet global fiscal revenue, impact and scale goals.
Ms. Hashem has an MSc in Violence, Conflict and Development from SOAS, University of London. She also undertook a Communicative Arabic Diploma at SOAS to enrich and develop her formal Arabic skills. Ms. Hashem’s professional career in the international humanitarian and development sector spans more than 17 years. She has successfully developed strategic partnerships including consortium and institutional grants capacity for Finn Church Aid, Overseas Development Institute and Plan International from policy influencing initiatives for humanitarian policymakers to rights based approaches including right to quality education, peace and livelihoods. Dina was deployed to Jordan for two years to provide surge direction and active support to secure the potential of larger, stronger and more fundable programmes for the region including Syria refugee response and development programming in Palestine from education in emergencies to peacebuilding initiatives. Her expertise is in designing, developing, embedding the tools and processes to diversify partnerships with institutional donors to strengthen scalable quality programming across Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Ayan Hassan (Treasurer), Program Finance Manager at War Child UK
Ayan works as Programme Finance Manager at War Child UK supporting international finance team in all areas of financial management. Prior on joining War Child, she worked with European Council on Foreign relations, MuslimAid and ActionAid in different capacities mainly providing strategic financial leadership, guidance and technical support as well as ensuring compliance with global standards, systems and processes as well as donors’ rules on financial management. She also worked with United Nations World Food Programme and United Nation World Health Organisation Somalia programmes for several years. Ayan is qualified accountant (The Association of Chartered Certified Accountant) and holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance from the University of East London.
Elin Martínez, Researcher at Human Rights Watch
Elin Martínez is a Senior Researcher in the Children’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch. At Human Rights Watch, Elin works on the right to education. She conducts research, national and global advocacy, and advises Human Rights Watch staff on legal and policy issues, including on the right to inclusive primary and secondary education, school-related sexual violence, and discrimination and exclusion faced by girls, children with disabilities, refugee children, and minorities. Elin previously worked for the Global Partnership for Education’s Secretariat, as well as Save the Children UK, where she led the organization’s global advocacy efforts on the right to education in humanitarian emergencies. Prior to focusing on global education advocacy, she worked with grassroots human rights defenders and advocacy organizations in the Asia Pacific region to increase accountability for human rights violations through UN and national human rights bodies. She holds an LL.B. in International, European and Comparative Law from the University of Sheffield, and an LL.M. in International Criminal Justice and Armed Conflict from the University of Nottingham. Elin has been a trustee of theRight to Education Initiative since 2017. She is a member of the Global Working Group to End School-related Gender-based Violence.
Bharti Patel, International Child Rights Advocate
An accomplished and dedicated Human Rights and Social Justice campaigner, Bharti’s work focuses on a child rights to quality education and to be free from abuse and exploitation in all its forms, and advocating for fair and just social, economic, and environment justice policies and practices. She has worked in the UK and in India leading high-profile research, campaigning and advocacy organisations overseeing important changes to law and policy on child protection, trafficking prevention and transnational child abuse and exploitation including child labour. In the UK Bharti was instrumental in lobbying for Britain’s first-ever national minimum wage legislation. In India she directed sustainable development programs to help strengthen food, water, and livelihood security for vulnerable communities. Bharti sits on the advisory board of Freedom United fighting to end modern slavery.
Nikki Skipper, Director of Fundraising at The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust
Nikki has over 20 years’ experience of fundraising in international development and environmental organisations. She has worked in leadership roles at Right To Play (RTP) UK, WWF, Sightsavers and WaterAid, developing transformative partnerships with individuals, corporates and foundations. RTP is an education charity, recognised for its tried and tested approach to empowering children and young people through sport and play. As National Director Nikki worked closely with Trustees on regulation, policy and governance requirements, as well as leading the communications and fundraising strategies. She currently leads fundraising at the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, supporting young people who are taking social action in their communities, including in the areas of education and human rights. Nikki was a school Governor for 5 years at a London community school. Nikki is an Institute of Fundraising Mentor and believes passionately in supporting and empowering young people to make a difference. She has a B.A.(Hons) in German, Politics and Philosophy and a B.Sc.(Hons) in Environmental Science.
Anjela Taneja, Campaign Lead Inequality/Lead for the Public Services at Oxfam India
Anjela Taneja is an education specialist with 20 years of experience with specialization in education governance. She is currently the Campaign Lead Inequality/Lead for the Public Services work of Oxfam India. She has been the Head of Policy for the Global Campaign for Education. Prior to this, she worked for ActionAid and Oxfam and was the Oxfam International southern education lead. She is also one of the founding members of the Right to Education Forum, India's largest education network. She has a comprehensive experience of global, regional, national, and local education advocacy, programming, and monitoring and evaluation. She has written numbers of papers and reports, including Time to Get it Right: Lessons from EFA and the MDGs for Education 2016-2030, Private Profit, Public Loss: why the push for low-fee private schools is throwing quality education off track and Federalism and Fidelity: A Review of the provisions under the Model and State Rules under The RTE Act 2009. She represented GCE in several advocacy spaces including UNESCO’s Teacher Task Force for Education 2030 Steering Committee and the INEE Advocacy Working Group and has worked globally with full range of non-state education actors and relevant UN and interagency bodies active on education. She actively took part in the negotiations for the shaping of the SDG agenda, was part of the selection committee for the SDG summit, was selected to take part in the IAEG meetings on behalf of the education CSO community and wrote a briefing guiding education civil society participation in the Voluntary National Reviews for the SDGs.
RTE benefits from high-level expertise from a network of advisers. Serving in an individual capacity, advisers provide specialist advice or feedback on specific areas of RTE’s work.
RTE’s advisers are:
Fons Coomans (Professor at Maastricht University, Faculty of Law and Chairholder of UNESCO Chair in Human Rights and Peace)
Christian Courtis (Human Rights Officer at OHCHR in the Sustainable Development Goals Section)
David Edwards (Deputy Secretary General of Education International)
Geoff Gilbert (Professor of International Human Rights & Humanitarian Law, School of Law and Human Rights Centre, University of Essex)
Chris Grove (ESCR-Net Executive Director)
Peter Hyll-Larsen (Education Rights in Emergencies Consultant)
Steven Klees (Professor of International Education Policy at University of Maryland)
Philippa Lei (Director of Programmes and Advocacy at Malala Fund)
Keith Lewin (Professor in International Education and Development at University of Sussex)
Simon McGrath (Professor at University of Nottingham, UNESCO Chair in the Political Economy of Education)
Angela Melchiorre (Independent Human Rights Consultant)
Mary Mendenhall (Assistant Professor of Practice, International and Comparative Education Programs, Teachers College, Columbia University)
Kate Moriarty (Independent Consultant on education, human rights and international development)
Albert Motivans (Head of Education Statistics at UNESCO Institute for Statistics)
Rolla Moumne (Programme Specialist, Right to Education Programme, UNESCO)
Vernor Muñoz (Head of Policy & Advocacy at Global Campaign for Education, Former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education)
Salima Namusobya (Executive Director of the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights in Uganda, expert member of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural rights of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights)
Aoife Nolan (Professor of International Human Rights Law at University of Nottingham)
Rene Raya (Lead Policy Analyst at Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education)
Baela Raza Jamil (Director of Programme at at Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), Centre for Education and Consciousness)
Reefat Sabbah (Director of the Teacher Creativity Centre in Palestine and Chair of the Arab Coalition for Education for All)
Ignacio Saiz (Executive Director of the Centre for Economic and Social Rights)
Sheldon Shaeffer (Retired, former Chief of Education at UNICEF, New York, and Director of UNESCO’s Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education)
Salim Vally (Associate Professor, Faculty of Education and Director, Centre for Education Rights and Transformation, University of Johannesburg)
Toni Verger (Professor at Autonomous University of Barcelona)
From 2008-2017, RTE was hosted by ActionAid and supported by four other organisations: Amnesty International and Global Campaign for Education since 2008 and Save the Children and Human Rights Watch since 2012. These five organisations formed the RTE governing body. In May 2017, RTE became a registered charity under UK law and these five organisations remain key partners. Current RTE trustees are from each of these organisations and RTE continues to collaborate on specific projects with them.
RTE also works with a number of international and national partners, including:
- Comité syndical francophone de l’éducation et de la formation (CSFEF)
- Child Rights International Network (CRIN)
- Coalition Education
- The International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR-Net)
- International Federation of CEMEA (FICEMEA)
- Global Campaign for Education (GCE)
- Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR)
- International Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)
- Initiative for Social and Economic Rights in Uganda (ISER-Uganda)
- International Organisation of Francophonie (OIF)
- Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (Oxfam)
- Solidarité Laïque
The Right to Education Initiative has been able to fulfil its mission thanks to the financial and in-kind support received from:
- ActionAid International
- Open Society Foundations
- Paris Peace Forum
- a private donor
- the Rockefeller Foundation
From 2008-2017, RTE received in-kind support from key partner organisations that have helped to coordinate RTE’s work: ActionAid, Amnesty International, the Global Campaign for Education, Save the Children, and Human Rights Watch.
Other historical donors and financial partners include: the Marple Charitable Trust, the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, Banyan Tree Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, Amnesty International, UNESCO, PUSH, and an anonymous donor-advised fund.
RTE is grateful to all current and previous donors that have supported our work and allowed us to fulfil our mission.
Making the right to education a reality requires ongoing efforts and funds - please get in touch with us if you are interested in supporting our work.