This article aims at connecting economics, education and gender in the MDGs, inviting world leaders to reaffirm education as a human right and as a major driver of economic and social development. 

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RTE's background paper for the Global Education Monitoring Report 2017/8: Accountability in education: Meeting our commitments.

The purpose of the paper is to show how a human rights-based approach offers insights and practical solutions to address the accountability deficits found in both education policy decision-making and implementation, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Specifically, the paper argues that a human rights-based approach to accountability can bolster public policy accountability by defining the responsibilities of authorities, ensuring they are answerable for actions regarding those responsibilities, and how they can be subject to forms of enforceable sanctions or remedial action for failures to carry out those responsibilities.

As the national government is the primary duty bearer for the right to education it is important for any report on accountability to start with the responsibilities of government. The paper provides an overview of the right to education legal framework to which States have legally committed, as well existing international and regional accountability mechanisms.

The paper then explores the connections between the 2030 Agenda, the Incheon Declaration, and human rights law. The Incheon Declaration affirms, ‘the vision and political will reflected in numerous international and regional human rights treaties that stipulate the right to education and its interrelation with other human rights” (para. 2). In the Declaration education is framed as both a “public good” and a “fundamental human right” (para. 5). However, whether a rights-based approached is consistent or present in the operationalisation of SDG4 has not been clearly debated. Part of this challenge is the diluted and often, overly simplistic notion of what the right to education entails. The paper seeks to better understand the similarities and differences of these two large global frames for education and includes a matrix that links the normative content of each framework. This matrix shows that the content of each is largely aligned, even if the processes are not. The paper argues that by recasting the content of SDG4 as part of the right to education, the legal obligations owed to that content can be invoked. This renders various elements of SDG4, if the state in question has legally committed to the right to education and incorporated the right to education in their domestic legal orders, amenable to adjudication by competent mechanisms, offering the possibility of legal accountability through legal enforcement.

The second half of the paper explores the prevalence of the right to education in national laws and the conditions necessary for the right to education to be successfully adjudicated at the national level. It provides an overview of how countries have incorporated the right to education in their domestic legal orders, as well as a list of countries where the right to education is justiciable. This is complemented by a series of case studies that draw out the requirements for successful adjudication at the national level.

At the national level the incorporation and implementation of the right to education, as required by international treaties, requires at least three stages. Firstly, countries must translate their international legal commitment into concrete action to ensure the full enjoyment of the right to education. This includes the incorporation of the right to education into the domestic legal order, through the adoption of education laws and policies. Secondly, countries must secure the right to education as a justiciable right. Lastly, the justiciable right to education must be able to be adjudicated fairly through the judicial system. Whilst the first stage is completed at a near universal level by countries, the final two stages, essential for the fulfilment of the right to education, are achieved by significantly fewer countries. Even when justiciability is present, various barriers may be present that hinder the adjudication of the right to education. Understanding how countries move from incorporation to application and implementation is essential to understanding whether the right to education is truly realised in a country. Our analysis shows that legal enforcement, through mechanisms competent to hold duty-bearers legally accountable, has a positive impact on the realisation of the right to education. Furthermore, little is known about how the political, social, and cultural context of a country limits or enables the adjudication of the right to education. This paper examines court cases from countries around the world to identify the conditions that enable the right to education to be realised through adjudication.

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This paper was prepared for the 2013 UKFIET International Conference on Education and Development for a discussion on using a rights based approach to setting post 2015 education goals. Education is a human right enshrined in a number of international human rights treaties and integrated at the national level through national constitutions, legislation, and policies. The human rights legal framework enunciates international standards that States must adhere to. Both MDGs and EFAs lack a robust accountability mechanism and are not explicitly linked to international human rights standards. This needs to change, as parallel frameworks should be complementary and mutually reinforcing. However, the Right to Education Initiative has observed a number of potential threats to education rights, such as privatisation, a reductionist approach to learning outcomes, watered down perceptions of equality, austerity measures, lack of accountability on legal guarantees, among others, at these early stages of consultation in the lead up to developing new education goals and targets. This paper explores the implications of some of these threats and how this may impact efforts to improve accountability. 

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This paper is the Right to Education Initiative’s contribution to the on-going discussions to refine the formulation of the post-2015 education goal and targets and to identify related indicators to measure progress towards them. This paper argues that there is a need to introduce a human rights perspective to the post-2015 agenda and furthermore that right to education indicators can give a fuller account of the progress made by States towards achieving the post-2015 goals. Before proposing specific indicators to measure the post-2015 education goal and targets (VI), the paper underlines the importance of linking the post-2015 education agenda to the right to education (II), and demonstrates how the post-2015 education goal and targets are linked to the content of the right to education (III) and extant State obligations (IV). This paper then reflects on the added value and limitations of applying right to education indicators (V).


Joint Oral Statement: New report takes firm approach to the implementation of the right to education and Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4), delivered at the 41st session of the Human Rights Council during the presentation of the UN Special Rapporteur on right to education's report about the implementation of the right to education and Sustainable Development Goal 4 in the context of the growth of private actors in education. 

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Education is a fundamental human right of every woman, man and child. In states’ efforts to meet their commitments to making the right to education a reality for all, most have made impressive progress in recent decades. With new laws and policies that remove fees in basic education, significant progress has been made in advancing free education. This has led to tens of millions of children enrolling for the first time and the number of out of school children and adolescents falling by almost half since 2000. Important steps have also been taken with regard to gender parity and states have made efforts to raise the quality of education through improved teacher policies and a growing emphasis on learning outcomes. 

Despite these efforts, breaches of the right to education persist worldwide, illustrated perhaps most starkly by the fact that 262 million primary and secondary-aged children and youth are still out of school. Girls, persons with disabilities, those from disadvantaged backgrounds or rural areas, indigenous persons, migrants and national minorities are among those who face the worst discrimination, affecting both their right to go to school and their rights within schools.

To respond to the challenges, the Right to Education Initiative (RTE) with UNESCO have developed this handbook to guide action on ensuring full compliance with the right to education. Its objective is not to present the right to education as an abstract, conceptual, or purely legal concept, but rather to be action-oriented. The handbook will also be an important reference for those working towards the achievement of SDG4, by offering guidance on how to leverage legal commitment to the right to education as a strategic way to achieve this goal. 

UNESCO’s 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report, Migration, displacement and education: Building bridges not walls, highlights countries’ achievements and shortcomings in ensuring the right of migrant and displaced children to benefit from a quality, inclusive education, a right that serves the interests of both learners and the communities they live in. 

Read the report, here.

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En este informe, la Relatora Especial sobre el derecho a la educación de las Naciones Unidas, Komba Bolly Barry, examina el ejercicio efectivo del derecho a la educación y la consecución del Objetivo de Desarrollo Sostenible 4 en el contexto del aumento de las entidades del sector privado en el ámbito de la educación.

La Relatora Especial presenta al Consejo de Derechos Humanos y a los Estados Miembros de las Naciones Unidas los Principios de Abiyán sobre las obligaciones de derechos humanos que incumben a los Estados de proporcionar educación pública y regular la participación del sector privado en la educación, y recomienda que se pongan en práctica plenamente.

La Relatora Especial recuerda que el derecho internacional de los derechos humanos obliga a los Estados a proporcionar una educación pública, gratuita y de calidad. En función de su naturaleza y sus objetivos, las entidades del sector privado pueden contribuir al ejercicio efectivo del derecho a la educación y ofrecer alternativas educativas, de modo que, por ejemplo, promuevan el respeto de la diversidad cultural. Sin embargo, la escasez persistente de financiación de la educación pública y el aumento rápido y no regulado de las entidades del sector privado, en particular entidades comerciales, en el ámbito de la educación, amenazan el ejercicio efectivo del derecho a la educación para todos y la consecución del Objetivo de Desarrollo Sostenible 4.

El informe contiene observaciones y recomendaciones sobre la obligación de los Estados de financiar y proporcionar educación pública y ofrece algunas propuestas y soluciones concretas. El informe se basa en los Principios de Abiyán, en particular con respecto a la obligación de regular las entidades del sector privado que intervienen en el ámbito de la educación, las alianzas público-privadas y el papel de los donantes y la sociedad civil.


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In this report, the Special Rapporteur examines the implementation of the right to education and Sustainable Development Goal 4 in the context of the growth of private actors in education.

She presents to the Human Rights Council and States Members of the United Nations the Abidjan Principles on the human rights obligations of States to provide public education and to regulate private involvement in education, and recommends their full implementation.

She recalls that international human rights law requires States to provide free, quality, public education. Depending on their nature and aims, private actors may contribute to the realization of the right to education and offer educational alternatives, thus enhancing, for example, respect for cultural diversity. However, the persistent underfunding of public education and the rapid and unregulated growth in the involvement of private, in particular commercial, actors in education, threaten the implementation of the right to education for all and Sustainable Development Goal 4.

The report contains observations and recommendations on the obligation of States to fund and provide public education and provides some concrete suggestions and solutions. It draws on the Abidjan Principles, in particular with regard to the obligation to regulate private actors involved in education, public-private partnerships and the role of donors and civil society.


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Dans ce rapport, la Rapporteuse spéciale sur le droit à l'éducation des Nations unies, Koumba Boly Barry, examine la mise en œuvre du droit àl’éducation et de l’objectif de développement durable 4 face à l’importance croissante des acteurs privés dans le domaine de l’éducation.

Elle présente au Conseil des droits de l’homme et aux États Membres de l’Organisation des Nations Unies les Principes d’Abidjan sur les obligations en matière de droits de l’homme qui incombent aux États de fournir un enseignement public et de réglementer la participation du secteur privé dans le domaine de l’éducation, etrecommande de les mettre pleinement en œuvre.

Elle rappelle que le droit international des droits de l’homme impose aux États l’obligation de garantir un enseignement public gratuit et de qualité. Selon leur nature et leurs objectifs, les acteurs privés peuvent contribuer à la réalisation du droit à l’éducation et favoriser notamment le respect de la diversité culturelle en proposant de nouvelles formes d’éducation. Le sous-financement chronique de l’enseignement public et l’essor rapide et non réglementé des acteurs privés, en particulier ceux à vocation commerciale, dans le domaine de l’éducation, menacent toutefois la mise en œuvre du droit à l’éducation pour tous et la réalisation de l’objectif de développement durable 4.

Le rapport contient des observations et des recommandations concernant l’obligation qui incombe aux États de garantir et de financer un enseignement public, ainsi que des suggestions et des solutions concrètes. Il s’inspire des Principes d’Abidjan, notamment en ce qui concerne l’obligation de réglementer la participation des acteurs privés dans le domaine de l’éducation, les partenariats public-privé et le rôle des donateurs et de la société civile.


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