Director-General Advocates for Right to Education before Human Rights Council

Asserting that “human rights and dignity must remain the moral compass that steers forward the post-2015 development agenda”, the Director-General appealed to members of the Human Rights Council to recognize the central importance of the right to education for charting inclusive societies free from want and from fear, during a high-level panel at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on 1 March 2013.

The panel, focused on mainstreaming human rights in the post-2015 agenda, placed specific emphasis on ensuring the right to education. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “urged all stakeholders to ensure that international human rights standards and principles help guide our post-2015 goals and objectives. The right to education is a crucial part of this picture. Far too often, people who need their rights most know their rights least….Education, health care, housing, and the fair administration of justice, are not privileges for the few, but rights for all.”

“The post 2015 agenda must start with equity – to ensure everyone can exercise the right to education.  Attention to girls and women is crucial,” said the Director-General Irina Bokova, also underlining the plight of some 28 million children denied an education in conflict situations. “We must focus on quality so that young people gain the skills they need to enter the labour market and benefit from development. And we must promote global citizenship and develop a human rights culture throughout education.”

 At the same time, she said, “we must pull out all the stops to reach our goals by 2015,” commending the Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative for placing education at the top of the political agenda and Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser’s Educate a Child initiative, in which UNESCO is a strategic partner, for its projects to reach out-of-school children.

 “Strengthening the human rights dimension in the development goals is the best way to ensure that these goals will be enforceable,” said Sheikha Moza, chair of the Qatar Foundation and UNESCO Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education. She called for a “more ambitious approach to education in the future sustainable development goals that encompasses specific targets on education in conflict, quality of learning and lifelong education.”

Ms Amina Mohamed, special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning, observed that human rights had to be more effectively mainstreamed than in the MDGs to achieve equity and sustainability. The right to education, she said, is a building block for inclusive development.  “Decent jobs require decent schooling plus zero tolerance for child labour, early child marriage and discrimination against people with HIV,” stressing the importance of comprehensive sexuality education.

For United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, “education is also essential to the achievement of the right to development – enabling all people, without discrimination of any kind to take an active part in the process. In short, without respect for human rights, development is not equitable. And unless it is equitable, development can never be sustainable.” 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal, Mr Paulo Sacadura Cabral Portas, called for education to be a top priority of the post 2015 agenda: “we must be more ambitious and we must not forget that there are international human rights obligations on the right to education that cannot be neglected or violated.”

WHO’s Director-General Dr Margaret Chan stressed that “education and health go hand-in-hand in the drive to lift people out of poverty” and urged for stronger emphasis on women and girls. The Director-General of the ILO Guy Ryder stated that education has to be a lifelong process intimately linked to the labour market, UNICEF placed the emphasis on an equity strategy, with more attention to those left behind and renewed focus on girls, while UNDP outlined the benefits of human rights based approaches for tackling growing inequalities.

The Human Rights Council is placed under the presidency of Mr Remigiusz Achilles Henczel, Permanent Representative of Poland to the United Nations Office in Geneva.