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Drafting committee welcomes the recognition of the Abidjan Principles by the United Nations Human Rights Council

Professor Ann Skelton, chair of the drafting committee, handing over the Abidjan Principles to the Minister of Education in Abidjan on 13 February 2019.

Professor Ann Skelton, chair of the drafting committee, handing over the Abidjan Principles to the Minister of Education in Abidjan on 13 February 2019.

The members of the committee that drafted the Abidjan Principles on the human rights obligations of States to provide public education and to regulate private involvement in education welcome the adoption last week by the United Nations Human Rights Council of a resolution recognising the Abidjan Principles.

The Abidjan Principles drafting committee was made up of nine international experts from six continents, and was chaired by Professor Ann Skelton. The committee led the drafting of the Abidjan Principles on the right to education based on the consultations, background information and other experts’ inputs. The Abidjan Principles were eventually adopted by over 50 of the most eminent experts worldwide on the right to education.

Other members of the committee included Professor Aoife Nolan (Ireland, University of Nottingham), Dr Jacqueline Mowbray (Australia, University of Sydney), Jayna Kothari (India), Dr Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona (Chile), Dr Maria Smirnova (Russia), Roman Zinigrad (Israel), Professor Sandra Fredman (South Africa, University of Oxford), and Sandra Epal-Ratjen (France). 

Professor Ann Skelton, the UNESCO Chair for education law in Africa and a professor at the University of Pretoria, who was chairing the drafting committee, said: “The committee worked to ensure that the Abidjan Principles provide a rigorous legal analysis of existing standards, and respond to the needs and realities of States, children, parents, and other education stakeholders. We are delighted that States value this effort, and we look forward to continuing a dialogue with them about the implementation of the Principles.” 

Professor Sandra Fredman added: “Everyone, whatever their economic or social circumstances, has a fundamental right to quality education. The Abidjan Principles reassert the State's duty to fulfil this right equitably both in the public and private sector. By endorsing the Principles, the Human Rights Council has taken a crucial step towards making this right a reality for countless children who are still being denied quality education.

According to Jayna Kothari, “the Abidjan Principles make an important contribution to elaborating the right to education especially with regard to the role of private actors. These Principles will provide guidance to State authorities, institutions and courts in protecting and implementing the right to education.”

Dr Jacqueline Mowbray said: “An important aspect of the Abidjan Principles is clarification of the right to public education, and guidance for States on their obligations to provide such education. It is wonderful to see States, through the Human Rights Council, embracing this important element of the Principles.”

The Human Rights Council's recognition of the Abidjan Principles and strong statements on private actor involvement in education are to be welcomed. They reflect growing global concern with the implications of the commercialisation of education - both for the realisation of the right to education and for the  achievement of SDG4 on education,” said Professor Aoife Nolan. 

Dr Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona reacted: "The global contribution and relevance of the Abidjan Principles have been demonstrated by their rapid endorsement. In the few months since their adoption, they have been recognised by several human rights monitoring mechanisms, including the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Human Rights Council. We expect that their implementation will mark a turning point in ensuring the right to education for all."

Dr Maria Smirnova concluded: “The Abidjan Principles strived to achieve the delicate balance between the freedom of education, in particular, the liberty to establish or choose educational institutions other than public schools, and the State’s obligation to provide good quality public education to all eligible children under their jurisdiction. This year’s Human Rights Council resolution on the right to education adopted by consensus is an excellent confirmation of the fact that most States agree with the balance achieved in the Abidjan Principles.”

The Abidjan Principles on the right to education unpack existing human rights standards on the right to education in order to provide more guidance about the right to education in a changing context, marked in particular by the growth of private actors’ involvement in education. Following their adoption in February 2019 in Côte d’Ivoire, the Abidjan Principles were recognised in a resolution of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, analysed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education in her latest report,  and noted in a document of the Global Partnership for Education, the main global multilateral fund for education.

As a text detailing existing human rights obligations already binding on States, the Abidjan Principles do not require formal adoption by States. They seek to support States and other stakeholders in implementing the right to education by providing more detailed guidance based on the analysis of decades of jurisprudence, legal practice and scholar analysis, as well as feedback from government officials, education practitioners, and civil society on the ground. 

For more information on the Abidjan Principles, see: https://www.abidjanprinciples.org/ 

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopts landmark resolution on privatisation of education and health and recognises the Abidjan Principles

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(Kampala, Nairobi, Geneva, 13 June 2019) The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights published yesterday a landmark resolution that addresses the role of private actors in education and health.

The resolution on ‘States’ obligation to regulate private actors involved in the provision of health and education services’ reaffirms that African States are ‘the duty bearers for the protection and fulfilment of economic, social and cultural rights, in particular the rights to health and education without discrimination, for which quality public services are essential’. It also expresses concerns at the current trend amongst bilateral donors and international institutions of putting ‘pressure on States Parties to privatize or facilitate access to private actors in their health and education sectors’ in disregard of these obligations.

In this context, the African Commission calls on States to ‘take appropriate policy, institutional and legislative measures to ensure respect, protection, promotion and realization of economic, social and cultural rights, in particular the right to health and education’ by adopting ‘legislative and policy frameworks regulating private actors in social service delivery’ and ensuring ‘that their involvement is in conformity with regional and international human rights standards’.

The resolution refers to and sets standards that are in line with the recently adopted Abidjan Principles on the human rights obligations of States to provide public education and to regulate private involvement in education. The Commission notably calls on States to ‘consider carefully the risks for the realization of economic, social and cultural rights of public-private partnerships and ensure that any potential arrangements for public-private partnerships are in accordance with their substantive, procedural and operational human rights obligations.

Salima Namusobya, the Executive Director of the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), stated: ‘We have seen the realisation of economic, social, and cultural rights hindered by the uncontrolled and unregulated development of private actors in social services delivery, such as health and education. Governments’ increasing reliance on private schools and clinics is facilitated by declining State investment in these essential public services and a blind belief in market solutions. The African Commission’s resolution is an important step towards ensuring greater accountability for States to deliver quality public services, as they are legally bound to do under national and international law.’

Research conducted globally and across the African continent in recent years has documented how the failure of States to adequately invest in public services, pro-market ideology and inadequate regulation of the private sector are leading to increasingly detrimental impacts on human rights: growing discrimination and segregation owing to unaffordable fees, lack of transparency and accountability, inequity, misuse of resources, and corporate control over services which are essential for the development of open and fair societies.

Human rights researchers, scholars, activists and bodies have provided a strong framework in the last years to analyse and respond to this phenomenon. In February 2019, over 50 eminent experts from around the world adopted in Côte d’Ivoire the Abidjan Principles on the right to education which unpack States’ existing human rights obligations in this context. In the field of health, in April 2019, ISER launched an analysis of private involvement in health using the human rights framework.

Sylvain Aubry, a Legal and Research Advisor at the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR), commented: ‘With this resolution, the African Commission is sending a powerful message to the world. It reaffirms the inalienable human rights requirements to provide quality public services and to regulate private actors, and the obligation of States to meet their human rights standards, such as the detailed guidelines provided in the Abidjan Principles. Human rights scholars, activists and communities across the continent have repeatedly said that a market-approach to social services is not compatible with human rights standards. We hope that African leaders will put the resolution in practice, and that it will lead the way for other regional and UN human rights mechanisms to follow suit.’

“I think the resolution is a welcome development and a bold step on the part of the African Commission given the weak or lack of regulation of the activities of private actors in many African countries. This resolution becomes an important standard that can be used to prevent or minimize the negative impacts of the activities of private actors in the enjoyment of socioeconomic rights. Given the impact of the activities on non state actors on access to water, it is crucial that future guidance from the African Commission on private actors addresses more than health or education.” Ebenezer Durojaye, Dullah Omar Institute.

The Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Dullah Omar Institute, and the Right to Education Initiative welcome this commitment of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights and hopes that this will be followed by continuing work of the institution on these issues. The resolution as well as the interpretative guidance provided by the Abidjan Principles constitute a milestone in building and enforcing regulatory frameworks for private actors in social services and will strengthen government's' efforts to regulate private actors.

Documents:

Contacts:

  • Salima Namusobya (EN), Executive Director, Initiative for Social and Economic Rights: dir@iser-uganda.org

  • Sylvain Aubry (FR/EN), Legal and Policy Adviser, Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: +254 7 88 28 96 34 / +33 7 81 70 81 96 / sylvain@gi-escr.org

  • Delphine Dorsi (FR/EN/ES), Director, Right to Education Initiative: +44 77 06 756 077 / delphine.dorsi@right-to-education.org 

  • Prof Ebenezer Durojaye (EN), Project Head and Senior Researcher, Socio-Economic Rights Project, Dullah Omar Institute, University of Western Cape: +27 71 918 9056 / edurojaye@uwc.ac.za

Landmark Abidjan Principles on the right to education published on Thursday 21st March

(Nairobi, Kenya, 21st March 2019) The final text of the Abidjan Principles on the human rights obligations of States to provide public education and to regulate private involvement in education will be published on Thursday 21st March 2019, at The Heron Portico Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, from 7:30 am to 9:30 am GMT+3.

The Abidjan Principles is a new landmark reference point in terms of understanding the right to education. Providing crucial guidance to governments, education providers, human rights practitioners, scholars and other stakeholders, the Principles are intended to directly inform education policies. They identify and unpack the existing obligations of states under international human rights law to provide quality public education and to regulate private involvement in education.

The Abidjan Principles constitute a milestone to address the raging debates about public and private education, following the significant increase in private schools that has taken place in the last two decades. By providing a rigorous legal framework detailing States’ existing legal binding obligations, they will help to ensure that the discussion on education policies put the right to education as their core.

The Abidjan Principles are being released following their adoption by human rights experts in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. On 13 February 2019, following three years of consultations, documentation and drafting, human rights experts from around the world came together to discuss and finalise the text of the Abidjan Principles, in the presence of the Minister of Education of Côte d’Ivoire, Ms Kandia Camara.

The Abidjan Principles will be made available to the public on 21 March 2019 during the release event and available on www.abidjanprinciples.org/en/principles. They will be released in their two adoption languages, English and French. They will later be accompanied by commentary and key resources and translated into other languages.

The drafting of the Abidjan Principles was led by a drafting committee made up of nine internationally-renowned experts. Another 15 experts who were present in Abidjan are signatories to the text, and dozens more leading human rights experts who participated to its elaboration are expected to sign the text in the coming weeks.

A secretariat made up of Amnesty International, the Equal Education Law Centre, the Global Initiative for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, and the Right to Education Initiative facilitated the consultative process.

After their publication, the Abidjan Principles will also be open for endorsements from civil society organisations and other stakeholders.

A series of launch events and presentations on the Abidjan Principles are scheduled throughout 2019. The next events will include a panel at the World Bank Spring Meetings on 11 April in Washington, D.C., USA, as well as presentations at the Comparative and International Education Society conference on 16 April in San Francisco, USA.

More international events will be announced. For more information and to be notified, please sign up to the Abidjan Principles mailing list: http://eepurl.com/geUlLb.

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Quotes from the Drafting Committee

Professor Ann Skelton, from South Africa, who chaired the Drafting Committee, and is a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UNESCO Chair of Education Law in Africa, said: ‘It is with great excitement that we are releasing the final text of the Abidjan Principles today. This is a fundamental text, because for the first time it provides a rigorous and comprehensive legal framework to address one of the most crucial current issues in education policies: the role of the State and private actors.’

Jayna Kothari, a Counsel in the Karnataka High Court and the Supreme Court of India, said: ‘Some of the critical work is only just beginning as we take the Abidjan Principles from paper to practice. We will work for their implementation, whether through technical support or litigation. This is particularly relevant in the Asia-Pacific region, where the unchecked growth of private schools is creating harmful discrimination and social division.’

Dr Magdalena Sepúlveda, a former UN Special Rapporteur from Chile, said: ‘Fair education systems are the key to sustainable development, and the Abidjan Principles give us a path to achieve that. We hope that the Principles will form the basis of education policy for States and will provide human rights practitioners with the tools they need to advocate for the provision of quality public education.’

Professor Aoife Nolan, a member of the Council of Europe’s European Committee of Social Rights from Ireland, said: ‘In these times of austerity and budget cuts, increasing privatisation of education is a tempting option for governments, but they need to understand they have obligations to meet. It is essential to have a clear human rights framework that guarantees the protection of human dignity at all times.’

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Media Contacts:

For press releases in other languages, images, and videos, see: www.abidjanprinciples.org/media

New landmark Abidjan Principles on the right to education and private actors adopted by experts

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(13 February 2019, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire): A group of human rights experts from around the world adopted the Abidjan Principles on the right to education today, following three years of consultations, reflection and drafting. The Abidjan Principles seek to strengthen existing efforts to ensure that everyone’s right to education is protected in the context of growing, and often unregulated private actor involvement in education.

Professor Ann Skelton, who chaired of the Drafting Committee, and holds the UNESCO Chair of Education Law in Africa, said: ‘Until today, those responsible for ensuring the right to education lacked clarity on what international human rights law says about private actor involvement in education, often leading to inadvertent and preventable adverse impacts.

The Abidjan Principles compile and reassert the legal obligations of states in one document . They also have been developed to respond to the well-evidenced, detrimental impacts that are often the result of the commercialisation of education.’

Echoing this, Dr Kombou Boly Barry, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education, one of the experts who was consulted, said: The Abidjan Principles are legally rigourous and tackle the very real challenges in providing inclusive free, quality public education, making them indispensable to any state that takes the right to education seriously.

The Abidjan Principles unpack States’ obligation to provide public education, to respect liberties and dignity  in education, and to regulate private actors in education.

Samuel Dembele, the chair of ANCEFA, commente:, ‘The Abidjan Principles arm us with the necessary tools to tackle the issue locally, while also connecting to the larger, systemic challenges presented by the privatisation of education.

As well as their utility for States, the Abidjan Principles will be invaluable to those striving to hold States accountable when they fail to ensure that private actors respect the right to education.

The deputy mayor of Grand-Bassam, where the meeting took place, Siaka Traoré, a déclaré: ‘Grand-Bassam is proud to have hosted this validation conference for the guiding principles for the implementation of the right to education, which will allow us to move faster towards the free quality education for all. It was a true pleasure for me to take part in the opening and closing ceremonies.’

The drafting of the Abidjan Principles was led by a drafting committee made up of nine internationally-renowned experts. A further 20 experts were present in Abidjan to review and adopted the text. Additional experts that were not able to be in Abidjan are expected to sign the text soon, which will also be open to endorsements from civil society organisations and other actors.

The final text of the Abidjan Principles will be available after copy-editing around mid-March.

Launch events will be organised throughout 2019. Details will be shared at www.abidjanprinciples.org.

 Media Contacts:

For press releases in other languages, images, and videos www.abidjanprinciples.org/media

Experts from around the world set to meet in Abidjan to adopt new guiding principles on the right to education

(Abidjan, 4 February 2019) On 12-13 of February 2019, education and human rights experts will meet in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, for the adoption of guiding principles strengthening the right to access free quality public education in the context of growing private actor involvement in education. 

This landmark text promises to be the new reference point for governments, educators and education providers when debating the respective roles and duties of states and private actors in education. The Guiding Principles unpack existing international human rights law on the right to education and outline practical guidelines for the growing global concern about the negative human rights impacts of the increasing private actor involvement in education.

Drawing on legally binding treaties, jurisprudence and other legal sources, the draft of the text that will be discussed in Abidjan has been developed by a Drafting Committee made up of nine internationally recognised experts on human rights law.

Professor Ann Skelton, the UNESCO Chair of Education Law in Africa, and the Chair of the Drafting Committee, commented: “These Guiding Principles can help ensure States set rules and regulations that guarantee private schools operate in such a way that is positive and does not negatively affect everyone’s right to access free quality public education.”

In order to prepare the text, an open, transparent and broadly consultative process has taken place in the last three years. From 2016 to 2019, a series of national, regional, thematic and online consultations were held to ensure that the resulting text address the different realities on the ground.

States, including those from the global south, such as Uganda, will benefit from the Guiding Principles in terms of having a reference point for policy development. For advocates, this tool will better enable us to hold governments to account to their obligations to regulate these actors,” said Salima Namusobya, Executive Director at the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, one of the organisations that supported the process.

The adoption conference is expected to be attended by education and human rights law practitioners from more than 40 countries who will observe the process.

A secretariat made up of Amnesty International, the Equal Education Law Centre, the Global Initiative for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, and the Right to Education Initiative facilitated the consultative process.

A press conference will be held before the conference on 11 February, and on 17 February at 6pm, following the adoption of the much-anticipated final draft of the Abidjan Principles.  

You can follow the developments of the Abidjan Adoption Conference at #AbidjanPrinciples, and learn more at www.abidjanprinciples.org

Media Contacts:

For press releases in other languages, images and videos: www.abidjanprinciples.org/media

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