The Right to Education - Crucial Expression of the Accountability across the Agenda 2030


NEW YORK - UNESCO joined the co-organizers of the event “Inclusive and equitable lifelong learning and the right to education for all, without discrimination”, held within the series of the Dialogues on SDGs and Human Rights, according to the UNESCO.

The event, co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Bulgaria, Ecuador, Mongolia, Norway and Portugal, and organized by OHCHR, in partnership with UNESCO and UNICEF, brought together distinguished ambassadors, high-level UN officials, diplomats, civil society and major education stakeholders, to explore what human rights can bring to Sustainable Development Goal 4  implementation and vice versa.

The discussion also featured how the realization of the right to education can contribute to achieving the international community’s commitment to SDG 4 to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” and the Education 2030 Framework for Action. The conversation also drew upon the finding of the 2017/8 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report ‘Accountability in education: Meeting our commitments’ and highlighted the Right to Education Campaign #WhosAccountable.

In his keynote speech, H.E. Gordon Brown, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Global Education, reminded the audience of the right to education, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Referring to its evolving nature, he underscored that with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the international community agreed that now this right covers also free, equitable primary and secondary education, as well as quality education for all.

He further stressed the urgency not to underestimate the potential of the intercultural education, and learning how to live together to create a peaceful future. Referring to the importance of predictable funding for education, he recalled the proposal of the Education Commission, as presented in its  ‘Learning Generation’ report, for the International Finance Facility for Education (IFFEd), aimed to fill the funding gap by unlocking nearly $10 billion of additional investments on an annual basis.

Joining the dialogue, Jordan Naidoo, Director of Division for Education 2030 Support and Coordination at UNESCO, outlined that the right to education is a crucial expression of the accountability across the Agenda 2030, as well as a driver of all its goals. As the 2018 Global Education Monitoring Report points out that accountability for the ambitious education outcomes, such as those in SDG 4, rely on multiple actors, from governments down to students, fulfilling their often shared responsibilities. In this context, Jordan Naidoo concluded that while responsibilities were shared, accountability cannot be: it had to be connected to single actors.

UNESCO representative also featured the recent Operationalizing Sustainable Development Goal 4: A review of national legislation on the right to education, conducted by UNESCO in 11 least developed countries, examining the current state of national laws that suggest areas of legal reforms to support progress towards SDG4. In addition, it was mentioned that UNESCO maintains the Right to Education Global Database, a unique portal, aimed to be a practical tool for monitoring, research and advocacy on the legal status of education worldwide.

Calling for an enhanced coordination and complementarity of actions of all education stakeholders to achieve the education-related targets, Mr. Naidoo mentioned the crucial role of the SDG4-Education 2030 Steering Committee -  the main global coordination and partnership mechanism with the mandate to articulate between global, regional and national initiatives on education.

The discussion, moderated by Mr. Andrew Gilmour, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, featured interventions by Member states’ UNICEF and civil society’s representatives, who shared their best practices, approaches and useful examples in promoting the right to education for all. Speakers strongly called for ensuring quality educational opportunities and equal treatment for all, without discrimination. Many underscored the importance of human rights education, as well as teaching about the Sustainable Development Goals. Some urged to provide for inclusive education, without discrimination - outlining the challenges faced by children with disabilities. In particular, UNICEF briefed on the Organization’s approach for mandatory accessibility for people with disabilities in all schools. Others sensitized on improving learning outcomes and skills development. The role of higher education in emergencies, as a powerful driver of change, that fosters inclusion and non-discrimination, was underlined. Participants also brought attention to the empowerment of women and girls through education, including though advancing gender equality in STEM studies, and enhancing financial literacy.