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Landmark Abidjan Principles on the right to education
by Amnesty, Right to Education Initiative, agencies
Mar. 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 have been released.
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 finalise the text of the Abidjan Principles, in the presence of the Minister of Education of Côte d’Ivoire, Ms Kandia Camara.
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.
The Abidjan Principles are 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.
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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Young people are striking against climate change in every corner of the globe
by Greta Thunberg, Anna Taylor and others
15 Mar. 2019
It started in front of the Swedish parliament, on 20 August – a regular school day. Greta Thunberg sat with her painted sign and some homemade flyers. This was the first school climate strike. Fridays wouldn’t be regular schooldays any longer. The rest of us, and many more alongside us, picked it up in Australia, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, New Zealand, Uganda. Today the climate strike will take place all around the world.
This movement had to happen, we didn’t have a choice. We knew there was a climate crisis. Not just because forests in Sweden or in the US had been on fire; because of alternating floods and drought in Germany and Australia; because of the collapse of alpine faces due to melting permafrost and other climate changes. We knew, because everything we read and watched screamed out to us that something was very wrong.
That first day of refusing to go to school was spent alone, but since then a movement of climate strikers has swept the globe. Today young people in more than 100 countries will walk out of class to demand action on the greatest threat humankind has ever faced.
These strikes are happening today – from Washington DC to Moscow, Tromsø to Invercargill, Beirut to Jerusalem, and Shanghai to Mumbai – because politicians have failed us. We’ve seen years of negotiations, pathetic deals on climate change, fossil fuel companies being given free rein to carve open our lands, drill beneath our soils and burn away our futures for their profit.
We’ve seen fracking, deep sea drilling and coalmining continue. Politicians have known the truth about climate change and they’ve willingly handed over our future to profiteers whose search for quick cash threatens our very existence.
This movement had to happen, we didn’t have a choice. Last year’s UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on global warming could not have been clearer about the extreme dangers of going beyond 1.5C of global warming. To have any chance of avoiding that extreme danger emissions must drop rapidly – so that by the time we will be in our mid- and late-20s we are living in a transformed world.
The students who are striking in cities, towns and villages around the world are uniting behind the science. We are only asking that our leaders to do the same.
If those in power today don’t act, it will be our generation who will live through their failure. Those who are under 20 now could be around to see 2080, and face the prospect of a world that has warmed by up to 4C. The effects of such warming would be utterly devastating.
Rivers would flood, storms would wreak havoc on coastal communities and coral reefs would be eliminated. Melting polar ice caps would lead to dramatically higher sea levels, flooding coastal areas. Places on Earth will become uninhabitable.
Scientists have also shown us that burning fossil fuels is “the world’s most significant threat to children’s health”. Nine out of every 10 children around the world are breathing dangerous air. Our lives are being compromised before we are born.
Toxic particles from exhaust fumes pass through the lungs of pregnant women and accumulate in the placenta. The risk of premature birth, low birth weight and cognitive dysfunction this causes is a public health catastrophe.
Pollution from diesel vehicles is stunting the growth of our lungs, leaving us damaged for life. Toxic air from burning fossil fuels is choking not only our lungs but our hopes and dreams.
And the worst effects of climate change are disproportionately felt by our most vulnerable communities. This is not just about cutting down emissions, but about equity – the system we have right now is failing us, working only for the rich few. The luxury so few of us enjoy in the global north is based on the suffering of people in the global south.
We have watched as politicians fumble, playing a political game rather than facing the facts that the solutions we need cannot be found within the current system. They don’t want to face the facts – we need to change the system if we are to try to act on the climate crisis.
This movement had to happen, we didn’t have a choice. The vast majority of climate strikers taking action today aren’t allowed to vote.
Imagine for a second what that feels like. Despite watching the climate crisis unfold, despite knowing the facts, we aren’t allowed to have a say in who makes the decisions about climate change. And then ask yourself this: wouldn’t you go on strike too, if you thought doing so could help protect your own future?
So today we walk out of school, we quit our college lessons, and we take to the streets to say enough is enough. Some adults say we shouldn’t be walking out of classes – that we should be “getting an education”. We think organising against an existential threat – and figuring out how to make our voices heard – is teaching us some important lessons.
Other adults keep saying: “We owe it to the young people to give them hope.” But we don’t want your hope. We don’t want you to be hopeful. We want you to panic and we want you to take action. We want you to join us.
We’ve relied on adults to make the right decisions to ensure that there is a future for the next generation – surely we don’t have all the answers. But what we do know is that we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, phase out subsidies for dirty energy production, seriously invest in renewables and start asking difficult questions about how we structure our economies and who is set to win and who is set to lose.
And we are no longer alone. Tens of thousands of scientists from around the world have released statements in support of the strikes by children. The scientists have been very clear about what we need to do to tackle climate change. We are uniting behind the scientists. We are only asking that our leaders do the same.
It is so important that this happens now. The kind of changes that need to happen mean everyone recognising that this is a crisis and committing to radical transformations. We strongly believe that we can fight off the most damaging effects of climate change – but we have to act now.
There is no grey area when it comes to survival. There’s no less bad option. That’s why young people are striking in every corner of the globe, and it’s why we are asking that older people join us. When our house is burning we cannot just leave it to the children to pour water on the flames – we need the grown-ups to take responsibility for sparking the blaze in the first place. So for once, we’re asking grownups to follow our lead: we can’t wait any longer. This movement had to happen. And now, you adults have a choice.
• Greta Thunberg is a youth climate strike leader in Sweden, Anna Taylor in the UK, Luisa Neubauer in Germany, Kyra Gantois, Anuna De Wever and Adelaide Charlier in Belgium, Holly Gillibrand in Scotland, and Alexandria Villasenor in USA
15 Mar. 2019 (UN News)
In a direct message to the youth activists who took to the streets across the world against climate change inaction, UN chief António Guterres said that he understood the anxiety and “fear for the future” behind their actions but added that “humankind is capable of enormous achievements. Your voices give me hope.”
Mr. Guterres said that the more he witnessed the “commitment and activism” of young people who were fed up with the pace of the international response to global warming, “the more confident I am that we will win. Together, with your help and thanks to your efforts, we can and must beat this threat and create a cleaner, safer, greener world for everyone,” he said.
“These schoolchildren have grasped something that seems to elude many of their elders”, he said, “we are in a race for our lives, and we are losing. The window of opportunity is closing; we no longer have the luxury of time, and climate delay is almost as dangerous as climate denial.”
The Secretary-General acknowledged that his older generation “has failed to respond properly to the dramatic challenge of climate change. This is deeply felt by young people. No wonder they are angry.”
Global emissions are reaching record levels, and continuing to rise, he said, adding that concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is the highest it has been in 3 million years.
“The last four years were the four hottest on record, and winter temperatures in the Arctic have risen by 3°C since 1990,” he added, noting also rising sea levels, the death of coral reefs, and a growing threat to human health worldwide.
Mar. 2019
UN human rights experts applaud children fighting climate change. (OHCHR)
UN experts on children’s rights, human rights defenders and human rights and the environment have lauded the Human Rights Council’s adoption of a resolution calling upon States “to provide a safe and empowering context for initiatives organized by young people and children to defend human rights relating to the environment.”
The United Nations Child Rights Committee together with the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the environment highlighted the importance of the resolution for children who are currently standing up for their right to a healthy and sustainable environment.
“Children are leading the way with their Fridays For Future protests,” said Renate Winter, Chair of the Child Rights Committee. “We salute their courage and are deeply grateful for their actions, which are desperately needed in today’s political climate of lassitude and decision paralysis,” David Boyd and Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteurs, added.
The new resolution calls on States around the world to protect and empower human rights defenders, including environmental human rights defenders. It also calls on States to facilitate the participation of children and youth in decision-making and implementation of environmental policies and programmes.
The human rights experts underscored the important role of human rights defenders, including child human rights defenders, in supporting States to fulfil their obligations under the Paris Agreement and to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In 2016 and 2018, the Child Rights Committee hosted discussion events with children, which among others produced the recommendation that child human rights defenders should be empowered and supported to express their views willingly, fully and without any fear, about environmental issues.
Countries should also provide a safe and enabling environment for child human rights defenders to speak out and make recommendations about environmental issues.
The experts consider this new resolution can effectively contribute to the implementation of these recommendations and protect those working for a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
“Children often bring a moral authority that can be forgotten in discussions about the specifics - we see the world much more clearly,” said a group of child human rights defenders and environmental activists from Australia who met with the Committee on 6 February 2019. “We might not have votes, but we certainly have a voice.”
Later this year, the UN Special Rapporteur on environment will launch the first regional workshop on children’s rights and the environment in the Latin America and the Caribbean region as part of his global project promoting children’s right to a healthy environment.
* IPCC Summary (34pp):

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