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The world seems less and less safe for those who stand up for human dignity
by Front Line Defenders, agencies
Michel Forst, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders:
Almost twenty years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus the Declaration on human rights defenders (HRDs). All governments made the strong commitment to prioritise the security and protection of HRDs, recognising the right of all individuals and organisations to peacefully defend human rights. Yet, the world seems less and less safe for those who stand up for human dignity.
Over the past four years, travelling to document the situation of human rights defenders (HRDs), I have seen how attacks against lawyers, indigenous peoples, journalists, social movement leaders, whistle blowers and community volunteers are on the rise everywhere in the world.
Attacks against those who promote sexual and reproductive rights in countries where fundamentalist religious groups have more weight in decision-making than ordinary citizens. Attacks against those who defend their water or land from mega-scale projects.
Attacks against those who search for their disappeared loved ones. Attacks against those who fight against corruption or impunity. Every day we hear of another killing and each one of these killings is a tragedy. A tragedy for the family of the victim, for their communities and for all of us, as these deaths mean our peace, security and freedom are at risk.
This is not random violence. I have become convinced that the incidents in question are not isolated acts but concerted attacks against those who try to embody the ideal of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in a world free from fear and want.
I am deeply concerned at the lack of visibility and recognition of defenders’ work. There is often a disconnect between public opinion and the active community of HRDs.
When I meet with defenders from many countries, they often tell me they are depicted in their own countries as traitors, defenders of criminals or against development. Politicians, business actors or mass media spread these images. This lack of understanding of the role of defenders is exploited by some States to pit entire sectors of the population against one another and to undermine the situation of people who are working to protect human rights and freedoms.
I am concerned by the lack of response to observations that have been made repeatedly, since the establishment of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. The reports of my predecessors, Hina Jilani and Margaret Sekaggya, referred to the lack of strong and ambitious political action aimed at bringing a lasting end to attacks against defenders. Those who attack and kill HRDs do so in the belief that after an initial flurry of anger these people will soon be forgotten.
It is essential that we never allow this to happen. This is why the HRD Memorial, developed by Front Line Defenders in partnership with a coalition of national and international organisations is such an important initiative, celebrating the courage and commitment of those who gave their lives to defend the rights of others.
It is their example that should inspire us to greater efforts in defence of human rights. We must be bolder and more creative in order to face up to threats that weigh heavily on civil society as a whole and on every individual fighting for fundamental rights and freedoms.

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Growing UN consensus to improve regulation of education in accordance with human rights law
by Sylvain Aubry
Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, agencies
The UN Human Rights Council – the top global human rights body – adopted yesterday (6.7.2018) an international resolution emphasising with unprecedented consensus the urgent need to better regulate private education providers in order to address the negative impacts of the commercialisation of education, and to do so following human rights principles.
The resolution urges all States “to put in place a regulatory framework to ensure the regulation of all education providers, including those operating independently or in partnership with States, guided by international human rights law and principles, that… addresses any negative impact of the commercialization of education” (paragraph 5).
The resolution, which was adopted without the need for a vote, highlights the increasing consensus among States regarding the human rights requirement to regulate education providers and to address the negative impacts of commercialisation in education. The resolution includes, for the first time, two paragraphs (4 and 5) on the regulation of private actors in education in the core of the text, which States did not question during the negotiations of the text. It also further clarifies and strengthens the language by specifying that States’ regulatory frameworks must “ensure the regulation of all education providers”, unambiguously requiring to regulate private providers.
This is the fourth resolution in as many years to outline the concerns over the growth of commercialisation of education. It comes against a background of a massive expansion in unregulated private education providers in developing countries in the last 15 years. This trend raises human rights concerns about commercial actors, such as Bridge International Academies, which attracted complaints from human rights organisations worldwide.
The 2018 text provides significant support for States, in particular in the Global South, that have been struggling in the last years to bring order into the myriad of private providers operating in their education systems. Uganda and Kenya have gained attention in the last months for their attempts to close private schools that negatively impact children’s rights, including multinational for-profit companies supported by powerful donors that seek to operate with disregard for human rights standards in order to reduce costs.
This year’s resolution also welcomes “the development by experts of guiding principles and tools for States” as part of the steps to implement the right to education. This reflects the support from States for processes such as ongoing efforts of a group of experts to develop Human Rights Guiding Principles on private actors in education which will operationalise existing human rights law in the context of the growth of private actors in education. These Guiding Principles, which were also welcomed during the Council discussions, will be adopted in early 2019 and help States fulfil the Human Rights Council’s requirement to put in place a regulatory framework “guided by international human rights law and principles” (paragraph 5).
The signing organisations will continue working with all interested stakeholders to strengthen public education delivery and to ensure that all actors in education are accountable and operate in accordance with human rights law.
* Signatories: Amnesty International, Equal Education Law Centre (South Africa), Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Initiative for Economic and Social Rights (Uganda), Right to Education Initiative
* 2018 Human Rights Council Resolution on the right to education:

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