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.
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 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
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.
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, Freelance Fundraising Professional and Mentor
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.
Carole Coupez, Network representative - 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.
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
- Fons Coomans, Professor at Maastricht University; UNESCO Chair in Human Rights and Peace
- 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
- Salima Namusobya, Director of the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights in Uganda; 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 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
- Ignacio Saiz, Executive Director, Centre for Economic and Social Rights
- 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 grategul 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.