19 June 2018
The Human Rights Council in a midday meeting held a clustered interactive dialogue with Obiora Chinedu Okafor, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, and Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education.
The Council heard the presentation of reports by Mr. Okafor and Ms. Barry yesterday afternoon. A summary of their statements can be found here.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Okafor warned about the threat of populism to international solidarity as it impeded the possibilities to realize human rights in a holistic way. The choice to focus on human rights-based solidarity was because not all forms of solidarity were in line with the human rights approach, and because negative impacts of international solidarity must also be considered.
Ms. Barry, in her concluding remarks, stressed the critical importance of including different political views and considering cultural contexts when thinking about the education of girls and children with disabilities, as well as adjusting specific measures to the needs of each particular group. The Special Rapporteur also stressed the importance of decentralization and listening to parents, teacher associations and other relevant stakeholders.
Cuba and Côte d’Ivoire spoke as concerned countries.
In the ensuing discussion on international solidarity, speakers said that in a world of increased interdependence, cooperation must be grounded in the principles of human rights, and they also recognized the central importance of international solidarity to development, poverty reduction, climate change mitigation, and for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. International solidarity must be adequately included in the negotiations on the global compacts on migration and refugees, said speakers, hoping that the draft declaration on the right to international solidarity would reinforce the communication among States, civil society and other partners seeking to improve the conditions of migrants and refugees.
On the right to education, speakers noted that despite progress, 263 million children and adolescents still did not have the opportunity to enter or complete school, underlining that girls, children with disability and children living in poverty were less likely to be educated. Given its importance, it was crucial to continually work to ensure that access to education was universal and that barriers to equitable access were removed. A number of speakers outlined their national efforts to promote the right to education and asked how States could better evaluate their national education systems, while others emphasised that achieving educational goals required extensive international cooperation.
Speaking in the discussions were the European Union, Togo on behalf of the African Group, Namibia, Pakistan, Kuwait, Maldives, France, Iraq, Egypt, United Nations Children’s Fund, Australia, Djibouti, Holy See, Denmark, Morocco, Angola, Iran, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Tunisia, Venezuela, South Africa, China, Sweden, Malaysia, Algeria, Afghanistan, Russia, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nigeria, United Kingdom, Nepal, Slovakia, Ireland, Sudan, and Botswana.
The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education OIDEL; Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi; Association of World Citizens; Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee; Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII (in a joint statement with several NGOs1); Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco; International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development VIDES; Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights (APWCR); Liberation; Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association MBOSCUDA; Prahar; Center for Organisation Research and Education; World Barua Organization; Catholic International Education Office and Ius Primi Viri International Association.
Next, the Council will begin a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
Statements by Concerned Countries
Cuba, speaking as a concerned country, underscored the constructive and professional manner in which the former Independent Expert on international solidarity had conducted her visit to Cuba, when she had held a number of meetings during which she had been able to assess Cuba’s contribution to international solidarity and cooperation. Cuba highlighted that the Independent Expert had qualified the embargo by the United States against Cuba as an “injustice”, and said that for several decades, 407,000 of its medical professionals had served in many countries around the world, while today there were 50,000 Cubans who provided services in 65 different nations, including in the area of literacy and the Milagro programme which helped the blind. For Cuba, the right to international solidarity was the right of all peoples, in line with the principle of the United Nations Charter.
Côte d’Ivoire, speaking as a concerned country, welcomed the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on the right to education which would provide guidance for the further development of adequate, accessible and adaptable education programmes. Côte d’Ivoire recognized the vital need to involve parents and communities in the management of schools and to improve access to school for girls and children with disability. Given the many challenges, particularly in the implementation of the policy of compulsory schooling, Côte d’Ivoire thought that the report should put more accent on technical and financial cooperation and support, especially in terms of teachers’ training. This would be crucial in combatting unemployment in urban areas and increasing access to schooling in rural areas.
European Union recognized the importance of international solidarity and said it was contributing to international efforts in poverty reduction. The European Union asked how greater consensus could be built on the theme of that mandate. On education, the European Union asked how States could better evaluate their national education systems. Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said African countries identified the right to education as central to development. Despite recent progress, the region was still lagging. The African Group reasserted that achieving educational goals required extensive international cooperation. Namibia said that in a world of increased interdependence, cooperation must be grounded in the principles of human rights. Namibia agreed that human-rights-based international solidarity was linked to all other human rights. On education, Namibia noted that girls were still more likely than boys not to attend school.
Pakistan fully supported the work of the Special Rapporteur on education. There was a need to give utmost importance to education-related Sustainable Development Goals. Pakistan’s education budget was on the rise and work was underway to standardize national curricula. Kuwait attached special importance to education as stipulated in its constitution. Education was a pillar of development. The Government was working to improve the capacities of students and teachers to foster enabling education environments. Maldives said the right to education in the country was a constitutional right. Significant changes had been made to increase the access to education of vulnerable groups. The Government had adopted a “no child left behind” approach to its education policy. Maldives shared the view that mitigating climate change called for increased international solidarity.
France was committed to education for all, one of the priorities outlined in their 2017-2021 strategy, “education, training, insertion.” On a global level, France would contribute 250 million euros to finance educational programmes worldwide, as part of a global partnership outlined in Dakar last February. Iraq said education in Iraq had suffered tremendously in the past three years because of the situation with ISIS, however, the Government had a plan of action to combat the displacement crisis resulting from the conflict and had also made great efforts to rehabilitate and open schools and universities. Egypt regretted that the Special Rapporteur on the right to education was unable to present the report to Egypt in advance, however, Egypt remained committed to quality education and free education in line with international standards. United Nations Children’s Fund said that globally, despite progress, 263 million children and adolescents still did not have the opportunity to enter or complete school; girls, children with disability and children living in poverty were less likely to be educated.
Australia stressed that, given its importance, it was crucial to continually work to ensure that access to education was universal, and that barriers to equitable access were removed, especially for girls and children with disabilities, because fairer education systems were also more effective. Djibouti asked the Independent Expert what he would recommend in order to ensure that international solidarity was adequately included in the negotiations on the global compacts on migrations and refugees. Djibouti stressed that governance in the education sector must be human rights-based and contain inclusive management mechanisms that would favour participation and transparency. Holy See reaffirmed that every human being had an inalienable right to an education and said that this right ensured to boys and girls, the citizens of tomorrow, a participation in the richness of their cultural heritage and a preparation for a dialogue in an ever more interconnected world.
Denmark underlined that human rights education was an important contribution to the effective realization of all human rights as it empowered children to know their rights and the mechanisms for their protection. Therefore, it was key for the future of human rights that the quality and the extent of human rights education was advanced at the national level. International solidarity was of critical importance for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, said Morocco, and asked the Independent Expert about the steps to take to promote the draft declaration on the right to international solidarity. Angola underlined the fundamental importance of international solidarity based on the respect for human rights in a world that called for collective solutions, and hoped that the draft declaration would reinforce the communication among States, civil society and other partners seeking to improve the conditions of migrants and refugees.
Iran said the role of human-rights-based international solidarity was important to the realization of all human rights. Inadequate attention was being paid to several human rights in that context. Technological advances were helping expedite educational advances. Providing teachers with better tools was central to improving education systems. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said commitments affirmed in the Sustainable Development Goals should guide institutions in ensuring equitable access to education. Governments must ensure that human rights based strategies were integrated into educational policies. Tunisia strongly supported the right to education as a key element in achieving lasting peace and development. States and civil society actors must work to promote this fundamental right. Tunisia emphasised international solidarity as a tool to building equitable international relations. Venezuela regretted not having timely access to the report of the Special Rapporteur on education. Education must be free of charge. Venezuela encouraged that work on international solidarity be undertaken in a frank manner not susceptible to the ills of capitalism.
South Africa commended the Independent Expert on his inaugural report, which South Africa felt would help bring them to the formal recognition of human rights and international solidarity and serve as a tool to address challenges that impeded the full enjoyment of those rights. China was committed to common development and mutually beneficial cooperation in human rights as well as building a clean, peaceful world. Promoting educational reform to improve education for 1.3 billion people was of great importance to China. Sweden applied a rights-based perspective and a perspective of poor people to development strategies, to ensure that their needs were met, while also achieving and promoting fair and sustainable development. Malaysia continued to invest in universal education as outlined in the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025, and worked to fight discrimination within the system to ensure no one was left behind. Concerning international solidarity, the State appreciated the focus on south-south cooperation and assured its commitment to that effect by way of capacity building assistance to developing countries.
Algeria had deployed enormous efforts in supplying its citizens with universal education by improving scholastic infrastructure and training as well as committing 16 per cent of its national budget to education. Algeria also reiterated its support for the Independent Expert on international solidarity, who had been invited to visit in 2017. Afghanistan worked on expanding the modern education system across the country, seeking to design effective programmes within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Special Rapporteur had been invited to visit Afghanistan. Russia shared the view about the danger of populism which had been demonstrated by the spread of radical right wing parties in Ukraine. There was a need to urge Ukraine to cancel discriminatory laws on education, which violated its international obligations.
Comments by the Independent Expert on International Solidarity and the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education
OBIORA CHINEDU OKAFOR, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, said that in order to implement his mandate, he would undertake a number of activities, including to engage with States to review their practices and encourage them to do better, to participate in various international conferences and promote the need for a human rights-based international solidarity, and to continue to consult with all stakeholders. With regards to the global compacts, Mr. Okafor said that he had already intervened at a stock-taking conference and had cooperated with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and other Special Procedures, to intervene by other means. Mr. Okafor said that he used the draft declaration on the right to international solidarity, noting that this was not yet international law. In terms of future work, the Independent Expert would continue to prioritize the intersection between international solidarity and climate change, continue to promote a human rights-based approach to international solidarity and cooperation, and also continue with country visits.
KOUMBOU BOLY BARRY, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, presented apologies for the delay in making the report available and thanked the delegations for their commitment to make the right to education a reality in their countries. The Special Rapporteur urged States to cooperate with and support the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which had set up a reference framework that States could use in their national efforts, and to actively use the Universal Periodic Review to report on the progress they were making in realizing the right to education. Ms. Barry underlined the critical importance of having the laws in place which supported rights-based education. Laws were the first step in organizing the educational reforms. Also important was the implementation of international obligations of States at the national, but more crucially at the local levels; and making sure that on the ground, children had access to school, information, and competencies.
Recognizing the important work done by Governments in ensuring the right to education, the Special Rapporteur also insisted on the critical value of the work of civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations which were the ones which often went to remote and rural areas, supported access to education for marginalized groups such as children with disabilities, and also advocated on behalf of the vulnerable. Ms. Barry also recognized that the private sector was an actor in the provision of education, but the role of frameworks, standards and regulations must not be understated. It was possible to set up the framework for dialogue between various actors and levels, which must be open, based on trust, and its decisions must be implemented.
Bangladesh shared the view that populism posed a threat to the principle of international solidarity. The commitment to promote international solidarity for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda and to further the work on the draft declaration on the right to international solidarity was welcomed. Ecuador underscored the responsibility of all stakeholders in the international community to promote international solidarity. Ecuador not only guaranteed the right to public education, but had conducted a series of reforms aimed at the improvement of education. Bolivia agreed that collective problems faced today in the world required collective solutions, which in turn demanded international cooperation among States. States had to give priority to participative forms of governance to ensure that all voices were present and included. Nigeria welcomed the choice of thematic areas, particularly the topic of migration, refugees, global citizenship, threat of populism and international solidarity. Nigeria had been investing heavily in education and would continue with the on-going efforts with a view to ensuring education for all.
United Kingdom placed particular stress on creating greater access to education for girls as well as improving teacher quality and reforming the education system to reach the most marginalised populations. Nepal attached significant value to international solidarity in taking effective and just measures to deal with climate change and safe migration, particularly with respect to vulnerable groups. Education in Nepal had undergone significant progress in areas like adult literacy, gender parity and a reduction in drop-out rates and repetition rates. Slovakia was concerned about the great numbers of children unable to access education because of military conflict, which left development in those countries in a precarious state. Ireland strongly supported the right to a quality education for all, as education directly contributed to the fuller promotion and realisation of human rights.
Sudan believed education was the basis for the development of prosperous societies. Education was being made available across Sudan, including for nomadic populations. Sudan drew attention to the right to education of migrants. It reiterated the importance of international solidarity in relation to human rights. Botswana said that States faced common global challenges and international solidarity and international cooperation were paramount to safeguarding a common future. Botswana welcomed research into how technology, stopping illicit financial flows and fighting populism could be used to enhance human rights universally.
International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education OIDEL thanked the Special Rapporteur for considering the issue of governance from a rights-based approach. The right to education could strengthen human rights and fundamental freedoms. Access to information and transparency played an essential role in promoting good governance. Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi said education was facing the threat of intolerance in India. Vandalism of minority education institutions in India was depriving marginalized populations of their fundamental rights. Minority groups were trapped in a cycle of poverty as a result of a lack of education. Association of World Citizens drew attention to the situation of the Khmer language in Cambodia. Today, communications in social media and among youth took place in a combination of Khmer and other languages such as French. The lack of official efforts to preserve the language was a shortcoming. Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee emphasised the importance of rights-based-approaches to education. In India, education was centralized, ignoring the culture of indigenous populations. Government policies seemed to be pursuing the shut-down of public education. The group requested the Special Rapporteur to visit India.
Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, in a joint statement with several NGOs1, reiterated full support for the draft declaration on the right to international solidarity and said that the Independent Expert should continue to pay attention to themes of global concern, particularly migration and climate change which represented areas where concerted action of States was needed. Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco advocated for the inclusion of youth in education policy making, including by creating a mechanism that allowed for the collection and elaboration of the views and opinions of youth. International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development VIDES urged States to ensure an environment which offered inclusive, equitable and quality education with lifelong learning perspective.
Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights (APWCR) said that the lengthy closure of educational institutions in Indian-occupied Kashmir had long-term negative consequences on children, noting that over 60 per cent of educational institutions were occupied by or shared with Indian armed forces. Liberation drew attention to the situation of indigenous peoples in the state of Assam in India, and the situation of their right to education which was under threat. Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association MBOSCUDA acknowledged that a right-based approach to governance in education was essential in maintaining the quality of education, particularly for marginalized and vulnerable groups and populations.
Prahar expressed concern over discrimination among educational institutions in India. Right wing actors were using the caste system to discriminate against many students, including at the university level. India was urged not to associate with right wing actors and to end the terror at educational institutions. Centre for Organization Research and Education said non-discrimination was an important aspect of education in a country as diverse as India. Students from north-eastern India were facing increased discrimination in universities in the rest of the country. Provisions were needed in the penal code to protect against racially-motivated hate crimes. World Barua Organization applauded the Special Rapporteur’s efforts in advancing her mandate. All stakeholders must be informed of the implications of the right to education. The organization stressed that stakeholders would not be able to achieve their goals when they were being deprived of their own rights. Catholic International Education Office said human-rights-based approaches were essential to the realization of the right to education. States must be more transparent and accountable in their efforts. IUS PRIMI VIRI International Association thanked the United Nations for its efforts in Côte d'Ivoire in advancing the right to education. Turning to Yemen, the Association said militias were promoting hatred through so-called education services and efforts were needed to reintegrate persons affected by those militias.
OBIORA CHINEDU OKAFOR, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, said that a plan for building a wider consensus on the subject would be in gathering wide evidence on topics that affected everyone, such as climate change. Concerning the threat of populism to international solidarity, populism had a cross-cutting effect since populism impeded possibilities to realize human rights in a holistic way. Human rights based solidarity was chosen as a focus as not all forms of solidarity were in line with a human rights approach. Negative impacts of international solidarity were also considered.
KOUMBOU BOLY BARRY, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, thanked all delegations and non-governmental organizations that had taken the floor. Concerning the inclusive efforts targeting girls and people living with disability, it was important to have inclusive political views that would allow those persons to be integrated. It was fundamental to consider implementation mechanisms and specific measures. Cultural context had to be considered when thinking about education for girls and when developing education measures. Specific measures had to be adjusted to each group. Decentralization was important as well as bringing measures to grassroots levels and listening to parents, teacher associations and other relevant stakeholders. Dialogue was thus not only important but also at the local level. In post-conflict settings, values of peace and solidarity were essential for ensuring dialogue. The needs of individuals in post-conflict settings had to be taken into account. Wherever violence occurred, it was a sign that there was absence of understanding and listening. Follow up work would be carried out in countries which had been visited. Finally, delegations were thanked for inviting the Special Rapporteur for an official visit.
1Joint statement on behalf of: Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII; Company of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul; International Confederation of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul; International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education OIDEL; International Movement of Apostolate in the Independent Social Milieus; New Humanity; Passionists International and World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations.
For use of the information media; not an official record