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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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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.

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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

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

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