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 has been published today.

The Abidjan Principles is a new landmark reference point in terms of understanding the right to education.

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.’

Professor Aoife Nolan, a member of the Council of Europe’s European Committee of Social Rights and Just Fair trustee

States have an obligation to realise the right to education for all by providing free, inclusive, quality, public education. This obligation is grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and elaborated in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966.

Human rights treaties consistently frame education as integral to the full development of the human personality and a sense of dignity and self-worth, as well as being indispensable to the promotion of peace, democracy, environmental sustainability, citizenship, and for realising other human rights.

The Abidjan Principles ten overarching principles are the following:

Principle 1. States must respect, protect, and fulfil the right to education of everyone within their jurisdiction in accordance with the rights to equality and non-discrimination.

Principle 2. States must provide free, public education of the highest attainable quality to everyone within their jurisdiction as effectively and expeditiously as possible, to the maximum of their available resources.

Principle 3. States must respect the liberty of parents or legal guardians to choose for their children an educational institution other than a public educational institution, and the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish and direct private educational institutions, subject always to the requirement that such private educational institutions conform to standards established by the State in accordance with its obligations under international human rights law.

Principle 4. States must take all effective measures, including particularly the adoption and enforcement of effective regulatory measures, to ensure the realisation of the right to education where private actors are involved in the provision of education.

Principle 5. States must prioritise the funding and provision of free, quality, public education, and may only fund eligible private instructional educational institutions, whether directly or indirectly, including through tax deductions, land concessions, international assistance and cooperation, or other forms of indirect support, if they comply with applicable human rights law and standards and strictly observe all substantive, procedural, and operational requirements.

Principle 6. International assistance and cooperation, where provided, must reinforce the building of free, quality, public education systems, and refrain from supporting, directly or indirectly, private educational institutions in a manner that is inconsistent with human rights.

Principle 7. States must put in place adequate mechanisms to ensure they are accountable for their obligations to respect, protect, and fulfil the right to education, including their obligations in the context of the involvement of private actors in education.

Principle 8. States must regularly monitor compliance of public and private institutions with the right to education and ensure all public policies and practices related to this right comply with human rights principles.

Principle 9. States must ensure access to an effective remedy for violations of the right to education and for any human rights abuses by a private actor involved in education.

Principle 10. States should guarantee the effective implementation of these Guiding Principles by all appropriate means, including where necessary by adopting and enforcing the required legal and budgetary reforms.

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.

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