The Right to Education Initiative (RTE) is a non-governmental international human rights organisation dedicated entirely to the promotion and defence of the right to education.
Our vision is a world in which everyone, regardless of their status and circumstances, can fully enjoy the right to education in all its dimensions, from birth to adulthood and throughout life, and where all human rights in and through education are respected, protected and realised.
Our mission is to promote and defend education as a human right worldwide, by:
- protecting and strengthening the international legal, political and institutional framework that guarantees the right to education and guides its implementation at national level
- strengthening civil society actors' capacity to understand and effectively use human rights law and mechanisms to advance the realisation of the right to education at all levels through monitoring, reporting, advocacy and litigation.
The Right to Education Initiative (RTE) was established as the Right to Education Project in 2000 by the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Katarina Tomaševski. Originally conceived of as an online repository for information about the right to education, international law and national constitutions and Tomasevski’s expert reports, this website grew in content and influence. In 2008, ActionAid International, Amnesty International, and the Global Campaign for Education decided to honour and continue her work as a collaborative initiative building bridges between their respective fields in development, human rights and education. In 2012, Save the Children and Human Rights Watch joined these organisations to strengthen RTE’s strategic direction. In May 2017 RTE became an independent charity, registered in England and Wales (charity number 1173115) and renamed Right to Education Initiative. In 2021, the organisation was also registered in France (registration number W751261694).
We are the guardians of the right to education. For more than two decades, we have been working to promote education as a human right, and ensure that it is both recognised and fully understood as such 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 realise the right to education for all people. Much of what we do is in support of others, occurring behind the scenes and in service of a long-term and collaborative view.
In the period 2023-26, the specific changes we want to see include:
- States adopting, implementing, and enforcing adequate laws and policies to realise the right to education in all its dimensions which:
- Are aligned with international human rights standards, including in new or emerging areas
- Are adequately budgeted and funded
- Protect the public education system and prioritise the right to education of children from the marginalised communities
- States to be accountable for their actions or omissions in their jurisdictions and extraterritorially
- Civil society actors - including CSOs, parents, teachers, students, academics - participate in the development of education law and policies at national and international level from a human rights perspective, and have the tools to monitor the realisation of the right to education and hold states accountable
To achieve these changes, we have carefully defined our spheres of influence while situating ourselves in the wider panorama to select five issue areas. The first three reflect areas of historical impact in which we seek to consolidate our legacy, whilst the subsequent two are new areas into which we seek to expand.
- Advancing early childhood care and education (ECCE) rights, including free pre-primary education
- Calling for the protection and implementation of the right to public education and the regulation of non-state actors involved in education
- Collaborating with students in monitoring inequalities in access to and participation in higher education
- Bringing a human rights lens to assess the increased use of technology in education
- Influencing legal and policy frameworks in response to the connection between climate change and the right to education, both in terms of impact and solutions
Monitoring the right to education
Monitoring sits at the heart of our work. We monitor and report on the right to education, and develop open source tools and resources to enable others to document and report on the right to education in varied contexts. Our own monitoring work includes 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; and holding a role as a Steering Committee member of the ESCR-Net Monitoring Working Group, and a member of the RTEI advisory group.
We have developed a monitoring guide and list of indicators, and additional thematic monitoring guides on the right to education in conflict settings for journalists and civil society organisations, and the right to higher education. This will continue to be a focus in the period 2023-26.
Education is a right and not a privilege. It applies to all people - from birth to adulthood and throughout life. We take a comprehensive view of education, understanding it to encompass formal and non-formal education, early childhood, primary, secondary and vocational training and higher education.
The following principles guide our work and our organisation:
Human rights at the heart of our work. Human rights are essential for a dignified life, and their recognition and protection fundamental for a peaceful and inclusive society. Human rights law is a foundational pillar from which we seek to address world challenges, and a powerful tool for lasting change.
Committed, consistent and reliable. We dedicate ourselves entirely to the right to education, with passion and unwavering commitment. We are reliable, and committed to supporting others.
Flexible and adaptable. We are a small and agile organisation with a global web of connections which allow us to flex to meet different challenges, and catalyse action around pressing and emerging issues.
Empowering, not offering charity. Long term change occurs when individuals are enabled to access, defend and protect their rights. We do not believe in offering charity, and instead seek to build capacity and share knowledge and resources, working in partnership with those with different areas of expertise and knowledge
Collaboration, not competition. In a world where resources are scarce and violations of rights are multiple, CSO competition weakens our collective potential for change, and ultimately damages the exercise of rights. Underpinning our approach is a commitment to working in partnerships, and a belief that collective efforts for the right to education are strengthened when organisations and actors from a range of fields come together in a spirit of collaboration, not competition. We believe in sharing knowledge, working together to achieve maximum potential, and combining understanding and resources to enhance the protection and promotion of rights.
Embracing and seeking diversity. We believe that a plurality of views, voices and perspectives enriches our work and our understanding. We embrace and seek diversity in the people who conduct our work, in the languages and worldviews we hold, in the engagement with our surroundings, and in the methods we use to achieve change.
Accountability, transparency, and a commitment to learning. We are open and transparent about our work, our successes, and our areas for improvement. We are committed to listening, to learning, and to responding to feedback on how to grow and adapt as an organisation.
We have proven our commitment and consistency to promoting and defending the right to education for more than 20 years. Much of what we do is in support of others, occurring behind the scenes and in service of a long-term and collaborative view. Some of our impacts and added value include:
Framing education as a right and shifting the education and development sector to adopt a human rights based approach. We are a go-to international reference point on the right to education, and our open-source information and tools, such as our monitoring guide and list of right to education indicators, have shaped education monitoring from a human rights perspective across multiple sectors.
Strengthening legal and policy standards on the right to education. We have interpreted in a progressive way what the right to education means in practice, and have pushed for stronger global standards where needed. Our signature achievement to date is the role we played in leading the development of the Abidjan Principles on the human rights obligations of States to provide public education and to regulate private involvement in education, which have been recognised and used widely since their adoption in 2019.
Leading critical thinking on the right to education to bring about legal, political and social change. With deep knowledge and technical expertise on the right to education, we have long provided legal and policy analysis on its various dimensions. In particular, we have focused on emerging or neglected areas such as the privatisation and commercialisation of education and early childhood care and education, making recommendations and advocating for the protection and implementation of the right to education. Our expertise, specialist knowledge, and campaigning acumen has led to collaboration, co-publishing and contribution to the work of key education actors such as UNESCO Right to Education Programme, UNESCO-IIEP, UNESCO GEM Report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.
Supporting national partners’ efforts to advance the realisation of the right to education on the ground. We do not seek to carry out our own national-level interventions, rather to bring together complementing areas of expertise. Those embedded in national contexts hold the rich knowledge necessary to intervene, whilst we can offer extensive experience of engaging with international mechanisms to transcend national-level activism to international dimensions. See, for instance, our work with partners in Kenya, Ukraine, France, UK, and Chile.
Convening and catalysing different actors committed to the right to education. We have excelled in bringing these actors together, from local to global, building bridges between sectors and enhancing capacity, while catalysing collaborations and action. This is a core feature of our organisation: our commitment to partnership, to opening up our extensive and rich network of contacts to collaboration, and to stimulating joint action, particularly as regards driving specific progressive policy and legal agendas forward.
Previous projects and key documents
Delphine Dorsi – Director
Delphine is a human rights lawyer with more than 15 years experience in the field of the right to education, including at UNESCO and in several NGOs in Europe and Africa. She joined RTE in 2012 as legal and communication officer and has led the organisation since 2014. She authored, co-authored and supervised the edition of various publications on the right to education. 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. Recently graduated from 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.
The executive board is RTE's governing body. It is composed of:
Elin Martínez (Chair) 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.
David Archer, Head of Programmes and Influencing, ActionAid International
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
Dina Hashem, Director of Institutional Funding, Lumos Foundation.
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), Senior Control with WarChild Alliance
Ayan works as Senior Control with WarChild Alliance, 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.
Bharti Patel, International Human Rights Advocate and Advisor
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, Freelance Fundraising Professional and Mentor
Anjela Taneja, Public Services and Inequality Lead, Oxfam International
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.
Carole Coupez, General Delegate of Solidarité Laïque
A secondary education History and Geography teacher by profession, Carole Coupez has been the National Delegate for Global Citizenship Education since 2003, and since 2018, the deputy director of Solidarité Laïque, a civil society organisation collective committed to solidarity actions through education, to fight against exclusions, and support civil society around the world (including unions, popular education associations, public sector/ social solidarity economy actors, etc..
She represents the organisation in several national and European spaces for Global (citizenship) Education and right to education issues. She chaired the French Platform for Global Education for several years. Carole is also responsible for Quality Education for All advocacy and, since 2004, has been representing the Global Campaign for Education French network, where she has collaborated on various works on education funding (Education Watch) and teacher quality. She has also developed the collective carriage of this issue at the national level to the constitution of a national education advocacy coalition in 2015 'la coalition éducation'. She is involved in the French speaking Network on privatization and commercialization of education.
Salima Namusobya - Vice President, Africa at the Centre for Reproductive Rights
Salima Namusobya is a lawyer and human rights advocate who has specialized in human rights law, socio-economic rights, and forced migration. Currently, she is the Senior Regional Director for Africa at the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR). She is also an expert member of the Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). Prior to joining CRR, she was the founding Executive Director of the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER). Previously, she worked in various capacities with the Refugee Law Project, School of Law, Makerere University, and also served as the Eastern African coordinator for a project on International Law in domestic courts. She has vast experience in using research, technical assistance, legislative and policy drafting, strategic litigation and advocacy to advance social and economic rights in Africa, and is a Vera Chirwa Laureate for Human Rights Advocacy in Africa. She serves on a number Boards for local and international NGOs, and she is a certified mentor who has mentored several individuals interested in building a career in the human rights field. She is a member of the Uganda Law Society and the East Africa Law Society.
Ignacio Saiz, International advocate for economic and social rights
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:
- Klaus D. Beiter, Associate Professor of Law, North-West University (Potchefstroom); Associated Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition, Munich; Ambassador, Observatory Magna Charta Universitatum, Bologna
- Iain Byrne, Researcher/Legal Advisor, Economic and Social Justice Team and Special Advisor Strategic Litigation, International Secretariat at Amnesty International; Fellow Human Rights Centre Essex University
- Geoff Gilbert, Professor of International Human Rights & Humanitarian Law, University of Essex
- Haldis Holst, Deputy General Secretary of Education International
- Peter Hyll-Larsen, Education Rights in Emergencies Consultant
- Yoshie Kaga, Programme Specialist at UNESCO Dakar, specialised in Early Childhood Care and Education
- Steven Klees, Professor of International Education Policy at University of Maryland
- Jayna Kothari, Executive Director of the Centre for Law & Policy Research in India
- Keith Lewin, Professor in International Education and Development at University of Sussex
- Mercedes Mayol Lassalle, World President at OMEP (World Organisation for Early Childhood Education)
- Simon McGrath, Professor at Glasgow University; UNESCO Chair, Political Economy of Education
- Angela Melchiorre, Independent Human Rights Consultant
- Mary Mendenhall, Professor International and Comparative Education Programs, Columbia University
- Rolla Moumne, Programme Specialist, Right to Education Programme, UNESCO
- Aoife Nolan, Professor of International Human Rights Law at University of Nottingham and and Co-Director of the Human Rights Law Centre; Independent expert to the Council of Europe's European Committee of Social Rights
- Rene Raya, Lead Policy Analyst at Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education
- Reefat Sabbah, Director of Palestine Teacher Creativity Centre; Chair of Arab Coalition for Education and Chair of the Global Campaign for Education
- Ann Skelton, Professor of Law at the University of Pretoria; UNESCO Chair in Education Law in Africa; Director of the Centre for Child Law in South Africa; Member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
- Sheldon Shaeffer, former Chief of Education at UNICEF; former Director of UNESCO Asia and Pacific
- 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 works in partnership with organisations nationally and internationally, 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
RTE is grateful for current and historic in-kind support from key partner organisations that have helped to coordinate RTE’s work, inlcuding 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.