Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights


On Wednesday, March 4, under the framework of the Human Rights Council, the Interactive Dialogue was held with the Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights, Mrs. Karima Bennoune.

The Interactive Dialogue began with the intervention of the Special rapporteur, who emphasized the need to implement measures to provide adequate financial support, visibility, protection and ability to work freely in the cultural sector. She pointed out that the cultural rights defender label cannot be used to undermine human rights protection. She mentioned some examples of positive practices, such as the measures taken to implement the protection of cultural rights defenders in national legislation and policies by including the participation of cultural rights defenders in making rights-related decisions cultural, for example. She also mentioned avenues that can be taken into consideration when the human rights of cultural rights defenders are violated.

Several countries intervened to thank the rapporteur for her great work and highlight the situation in their countries. In the case of Cameroon or Nepal, they highlighted the importance of education for the full realization of cultural rights.

From OIDEL, we did an Oral Statement recalling the importance of the cultural approach on the right to education and therefore, the need to acknowledge the important role of teachers.

First of all, we would like to thank the work carried out by the Special Rapporteur during her years of mandate and thank her for choosing an issue of such importance and relevance as cultural rights defenders.

 Secondly, considering that defenders can be of any gender or age, from any part of the world and from any profession, we would like to highlight the role of teachers. The right to education plays an important role in the realization of cultural rights. As General Comment No. 21 says “The right of every person to participate in cultural life is also intrinsically linked to the right to education” (par.2). In this sense, it is important to recognize the role of teachers who ensure cultural transmission to groups whose culture is excluded from mainstream education, as is the case of certain minorities or indigenous people. We believe that the role of these teachers should be taken into account as human rights defenders, since without their work the intergenerational transmission of certain values and cultural heritage would be impossible.

We encourage the rapporteur to take them into account.

 Thirdly, we would like to highlight what was said by the former Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, who pointed out that defenders working in the field of economic, social and cultural rights – including teachers – They often have more difficulty getting their work accepted as human rights work

 In conclusion, we would like to highlight three recommendations from the reporter’s report.

  1. Adopt cultural rights-based cultural policies that include the work of cultural rights defenders, and protections for them, including strategies and mechanisms for responding to violations, and amend existing cultural policies to ensure these issues are fully covered.
  1. Express support for cultural rights defenders and their work, and encourage non-State actors to do so.
  1. Raise awareness, through human rights education, of the inherent importance of cultural rights.

You can find our Oral Statement at the following link – minute 1:29:54


Oral statement for the 2019 Social Forum

Yesterday took place the first day of the 2019 Social Forum. This forum took place on the 30th Anniversary year of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and at a time that youth has become a priority for the United Nations. OIDEL not just followed the Forum, but we are going to co-sponsor a side-event and also we have done an oral statement during the panel «Reaching those being left behind and defending the right to education».

Below you can find our Oral Statement recalling the freedom and the cultural approach of the right to education and its importance to enhance the rights of those left behind:

The title of this panel is reaching those being left behind and defending the right to education. I want to thank all the panellists for their magnificent presentations and I, as representative of OIDEL, would like to make a few commentaries.

No-one can deny the importance of the provision approach of the right to education to reach those left behind. An increase in the budgets to have better facilities, to prepare better professionals, to have access to better materials, and to ensure that all children have access to education is crucial. Nevertheless, focusing only on the provision approach of this right would be too narrow. We are focusing here on the rights of the children, and children are not numbers. They are human beings rooted in a culture, living in a community, cohabiting with a family with a particular language and with their own convictions. It is not enough to provide a good public educational system for all. Education shall be directed to the “to the full development of the human personality (art. 13.1 ICESCR, art.26.2 UDHR)” and to ensure this human rights approach it is important that this education fully respect the cultural identity of these children as it is stated in the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity.

The world in which we live is becoming more plural and it is rapidly changing. It is becoming more and more difficult to a unique school model to acknowledge the pluralism of the world, and at the same time meet the rapidly changing needs and circumstances of this world. We have to start thinking seriously if the vertical model state school – citizen is what is in the best interest of the child, especially those in disadvantage situations. Even, the UNESCO document “Rethinking Education: Towards a global common good?” evokes the need to think of a paradigm that overcomes the notion of education as a public good. On this regard and specially in a context of privatization, as the former two special rapporteurs have said to guarantee the right to education we have to start thinking the role of the state not as the only education provider, but as the guarantor and regulator(par. 54) (SINGH, 2014)(BOLLY, 2017, par.59). We consider that two pillars are important on this context. First, focus on the importance of human rights education in order to strengthen the unity among citizens in a plural world. Second, governments not only should they be ensuring a high quality public education, but also supporting and enabling the existence of compulsory education in non-governmental schools of whatever legitimate pedagogical option to satisfy the human right to education.

On this context, we have to acknowledge a new threat. The progressive loss of the human rights perspective in the educational landscape due to new commercialisation approaches. It is clear that the entrance of for-profit actors can suppose a threat at multiple levels, including the final goal of education. On this regard, the state has to play the role of guarantor we mentioned before. Nevertheless, on this context, it is important that we do not threat all the non-state actors similarly. It would not be fair to legally treat a faith-based school in an area of conflict, as an institution owned by an investment fund in a developing area. It would not be fair to treat an NGO or a civil society organisation focused on the provision of the right to education, as an institution whose main aim is to make profit. An unfair approach to this problem not only will leave actors that are part of the solution in demining situation, but also might affect the freedom and cultural approach of the right to education by limiting the freedom of parents and communities to choose the education that they want for their children.

You can see the whole panel in the following link.

Ignasi Grau

  • Nations Unis, Rapport de la Rapporteuse Spéciale sur le Droit à l’Education, K. BOLLY (2017) Rapport de la rapporteuse spécial : Le droit à l’éducation, A/72/496, disponible sur :
  • UNESCO (2015) Repenser l’éducation? UNESCO, Paris
  • SINGH, K. (2014). Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, «Privatization and the right to education». Genève – New York: Assemblée générale – Nations Unis.




A sentence of the Spanish Constitutional court recognizes that public funding of compulsory education in non-governmental schools with legitimate pedagogical options, is a constitutional duty to guarantee the freedom of approach of the right to education :

On April 10th of last year, the Spanish Constitutional Court of Spain in its judgment 31/2018 resolved a conflict on the funding of single sex schools that shed some light on the obligations of the state regarding public funding for non-governmental schools. About single sex schools the sentence mention that “the system of single-sex education is a pedagogical option which cannot be deemed as discriminatory. Therefore, it can be a part of the right of any private or non-governmental school to establish its own character”. About the particular character of a school the sentence continues saying that this ethos “can be considered to a great extent (…) the point of convergence that makes possible the exercise of the right of creation of educational institutions and the right of parents to choose the kind of education that they wish for their children, putting in connection educational supply and demand”.

Concerning the funding for these schools it says that the “public authorities shall give aid to teaching establishments which meet the requirements to be laid down by the law”. Moreover, recalling that basic education is compulsory and free by the Constitution the Court concludes that “it is incumbent upon the public authorities to promote conditions which ensure that the freedom and equality of individuals and of the groups to which they belong may be real and effective, to remove the obstacles which prevent or hinder their full enjoyment, and to facilitate the participation of all citizens in political, economic, cultural and social life”. The sentence continues “This constitutionally guaranteed free education cannot refer exclusively to the governmental or public school, denying it all private or non-governmental schools, since this would imply the compulsory nature of such a governmental education, at least at the basic level, preventing the real possibility to choose the basic education in any private centre. This would cut from the root not only the right of parents to choose a teaching centre, but also the right to create teaching centres enshrined in Article 27.6 of the Spanish Constitution (The right of individuals and legal entities to set up educational centres is recognised, provided they respect Constitutional principles). In this sense, public funding of private schools is at the service of the provision content enshrined in art. 27.4 of the Spanish Constitution (Elementary education is compulsory and free).“

From a Human Rights perspective we can celebrate this sentence for many reasons. First, because it considers the article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from a holistic perspective without dividing the freedom approach and the provision approach of the right to education. Second, and as a consequence of the first reason, because it considers the freedom approach of the right to education as something that goes beyond a mere liberty. Third, because its multiple references to international instruments such as the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the General Comment n°13 on the Right to Education.

Here you have the link to the entire sentence:

Ignasi Grau


Debate in the Human Rights Council on privatization and the role of non-governamental schools

The Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education took place on July 26th and 27th during the 41th session of Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In this session, the Special Rapporteur’s report on the right to education and in particular on the increase of private actors’ s participation on the field of education had been discussed.

In this regard, we at OIDEL were concerned about the possible interpretation that states could face significant limitations in their relationship with schools in the private sector, in particular about the ways of funding non-governmental schools. These doubts were first communicated to the Special Rapporteur in private in order for the latter to clarify some points that could be problematic from a Human Rights perspective.

During the debate, the Special Rapporteur made a brief introduction remembering the state’s obligation to guarantee access to public, free and quality education for everyone. This aim is stated in goal number 4 of the 2030 Agenda.

Furthermore, Ms. Bally Barry showed her concerns about the increase of private actors in the field of education. In this sense, she insisted on the fact that states have to establish a framework to regulate the participation of these private actors. She also highlighted that her recommendations are inspired by the Abidjan Principles.

Even if states have to give priority to funding public education, the Special Rapporteur recalled that this obligation cannot imply the violation of the parent’s right to choose for their children other different schools from the ones offered by the state. The state has to respect this freedom and has to guarantee the right to create new non-governmental schools by civil society. The Special Rapporteur stressed the importance of this freedom in order to ensure protection of religious, philosophical and pedagogical beliefs of parents. 

After the introduction, delegations of different states intervened. Many of them thanked the Special Rapporteur for her work and they informed about the current situation of the right to education in their own countries. Also, many of them emphasized the use of public-private partnerships as a way of supporting education of children by the non-governmental institutions, in order to offer a better educational system overall.

Moreover, many delegations asked for examples of best practices on how states can form the most effective public-private partnerships while adhering to human rights principles.

After these interventions, NGO’s and members of the civil society had been given the floor. Director Ignasi Grau spoke for OIDEL and also on behalf of several other NGO’s.

In the oral statement, after thanking the Special Rapporteur for her work, OIDEL reclaimed some clarifications. In particular, OIDEL insisted on the importance of the role of non-governmental schools in order to achieve a pluralistic educational system and in order to protect the rights of minorities. Some elements of the report have to be clarified so they will not be misinterpreted as limiting the right to education and the freedom to choose. You can read the oral statement of OIDEL in this link.

The debate concluded with a summary statement of the special rapporteur. She acknowledged the important role of non-governmental and non-profit schools, especially in those places where the states do not have the resources to fulfil their obligations. In particular, Ms. Bolly Barry praised the strategies developed by countries such as France  (with institutions as “l’école sous contrat”) or Tunisia where public-private partnerships have been launched, contributing to offer higher quality education. 

It’s vitally important to underline the distinction made by the special rapporteur to close the debate. Ms. Bolly Barry clarified that, when she mentions private actors whose practices imply a threat to right to education, she exclusively refers to private mercantilists and the for-profit sector – not civil society’s schools, including religious schools. This way, the special rapporteur affirmed the importance of state support for civil society in the field of education in order to achieve the best posible realization of the right to education. 


Amelia Suárez Picazo





Debate sobre la privatización y el rol de las escuelas no-gubernamentales en el Consejo de Derechos Humanos

Los días 26 y 27 de junio ha tenido lugar el diálogo interactivo con la relatora especial sobre el derecho a la educación en el marco de la 41a sesión del Consejo de Derechos Humanos en Ginebra.

En dicha sesión, se ha debatido y comentado el informe escrito por la Relatora Especial sobre el derecho a la educación Ms. Bolly Barry en relación al incremento de la participación de actores privados.

En relación con el informe, en OIDEL surgieron ciertas preocupaciones sobre la posible interpretación que podría hacerse por parte de los estados, en concreto en lo relativo a las formas de financiación de las escuelas no gubernamentales. Estas dudas se manifestaron primero en privado a la Relatora Especial, con el objetivo de que ésta última aclarase durante el diálogo ciertos puntos que podrían resultar problemáticos desde una perspectiva de derechos humanos.

Durante el desarrollo de la sesión, la relatora especial ha realizado una breve introducción recordando la obligación de los estados de garantizar el acceso de todos a una educación pública, gratuita y de calidad. Dicho deber se recoge en el objetivo 4 de la Agenda 2030.

Además, Ms. Bally Borry ha mostrado su preocupación por el fuerte incremento de los actores privados en el sector educativo. En este sentido, ha insistido en la necesidad de que los estados establezcan un marco regulatorio para la actividad de los actores privados en el ámbito educativo y ha recalcado que las recomendaciones de su escrito se inspiran en los Principios de Abidján.

A pesar de insistir en que los estados deben priorizar la financiación de la educación pública, la relatora especial ha recordado que esta obligación no puede obviar el derecho de los padres a elegir centros escolares no gubernamentales para sus hijos. El estado debe respetar dicha libertad de elección, así como garantizar el derecho a crear nuevos colegios no gubernamentales por parte de la sociedad civil. La relatora ha hecho hincapié en la importancia de esta libertad sobre todo para garantizar la protección de las convicciones religiosas, pedagógicas y filosóficas de los padres. Según la relatora, existen actores privados que pueden ofrecer otras vías de educación, pero deben ser regulados por los estados para que esto no acentúe las desigualdades.

Tras su introducción, han intervenido las delegaciones de los distintos estados. Numerosos países han agradecido el trabajo realizado por la relatora y han informado sobre la actual situación del derecho a la educación en sus respectivos estados. Muchos de ellos han recalcado el uso de alianzas público-privadas en sus territorios como forma de apoyo al estado por parte del sector no-gubernamental, con el fin de ofrecer un mejor sistema educativo.

Además, son muchas las delegaciones que han solicitado a la relatora especial que exponga ejemplos de buenas prácticas de colaboración entre el estado y el sector privado.

Tras estas intervenciones, se ha dado la palabra a las ONG’s y miembros de la sociedad civil. OIDEL ha sido la primera ONG en intervenir, en nombre propio y en el de otras ONG.

En su declaración, después de agradecer a la relatora especial su trabajo, OIDEL ha solicitado que clarifique los puntos más controvertidos. En particular, OIDEL ha insistido sobre la importancia del papel de las escuelas no gubernamentales a la hora de garantizar un sistema educativo plural que refleje la diversidad cultural y proteja los derechos de las minorías. Varios elementos del informe deben esclarecerse para evitar que se interpreten erróneamente y contribuyan paradójicamente a limitar el derecho y libertad de educación. Adjuntamos la declaración oral completa de nuestro director Ignasi Grau.

La sesión ha concluido con una última intervención de la relatora especial. Ésta ha reconocido en su conclusión el importante papel que juegan las escuelas no-gubernamentales y no lucrativas, sobre todo en aquellos lugares en los que el estado no dispone de medios para cumplir con su obligación de garantizar el acceso de todos a la educación. En concreto, Ms. Bolly Barry ha alabado las estrategias desarrolladas por países como Francia (con instituciones como l’école sous contrat) o Túnez donde se han puesto en marcha alianzas público-privadas que han contribuido a ofrecer una educación de mayor calidad.

Es de vital importancia recalcar la clara distinción hecha por la relatora para cerrar el debate. Ms. Bolly Barry ha aclarado que, cuando menciona a los actores privados cuyas prácticas pueden implicar un riesgo para el derecho a la educación, se refiere exclusivamente al sector privado mercantilista con fin lucrativo y no a los colegios privados de la sociedad civil como los colegios religiosos. De esta forma, la relatora especial ha recordado la importancia de que el estado apoye a la sociedad civil en el campo de la educación con el fin de que dicha colaboración conduzca a la mejor realización posible del derecho a la educación.

Amelia Suárez Picazo

Oral statement during the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education

Yesterday in the UNOG during the 41st Human Rights Council there was held the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education. The aim of the report was to talk about the implementation of the right to education in the context of growth of private actors. OIDEL has participated in the debate with the aim to recall the important role of non-profit non-governamental actors in the realization of the right to education.

Here you have the oral statement we delivered:


On the behalf of 5 NGOs, we thank the Special Rapporteur for preparing her report on “The implementation of the right to education and Sustainable Development Goal 4 in the context of growth of private actors in education”. We acknowledge the importance of considering the phenomenon of privatization from a human rights perspective.
First, we welcome the report’s emphasis on the obligations placed upon states to protect and promote freedom of education, which includes, inter alia, the prior right of parents to choose an institution for their child other than the one provided by public authorities, as stated in article 26.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Second, we commend the Special Rapporteur for drawing attention to the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 throughout the report; in particular, Goal 17, which encourages public-private partnerships among other forms of funding in the field of education. Former Special Rapporteur Kishore Singh had spoken about the good practice of conciertos económicos in Spain in this regard (A/HRC/29/30). Further discussion on similar innovations that utilize such partnerships as a tool to overcome the challenges of privatization would be most welcome.
Moreover, we believe that a plural educational system must reflect diversity in order to ensure the cultural dimension of the right to education. However, the guarantee of this right depends on non-governmental schools and educators having access to public funding. Problematically, the report claims that the funding of non-governmental non-profit schools must be a time-bound measure. More still, the report has caused uncertainty regarding the obligation on states to fund non-governmental schools internationally by introducing a set of criteria for states to consider when making supportive financial commitments. It is suggested that the contributions should only be given to non-governmental entities where governmental options do not exist.
If such a view is to be taken, then the specific educational needs of minority religious and indigenous groups, who wish to pursue educational options within their specific cultural context, may be ignored. According to these criteria the State must prove that public-private partnerships is “the only effective option to advance the realization of the right to education” in order to fund private instructional educational institutions. We will appreciate clarification from the Special Rapporteur in order to secure support for non-profit educational actors, to prevent discrimination and to ensure that nobody is left behind in attaining the right to education for all.


Ignasi Grau



La humillación está en la raíz de muchas guerras

10-11-16 Hearing Mayor Oreja20“La humillación está en la raíz de muchas guerras”. El histórico director de OIDEL, Alfred Fernandez repitió esta frase en varias de sus formaciones y conferencias. Aunque la intuición de esta afirmación de Alfred tenía tintes sugerentes e intuía un hecho muy real, la escucha no reflexionada de esta afirmación llevaba a veces a la conclusión de que era una exageración.

Alfred como lector de Ricoeur tenía en mente la importancia que tenía la narrativa en la constitución de memorias colectivas y en la definición, cuando no categorización de sujetos, en un contexto social (RICOEUR, 1999). En este sentido es interesante observar como estudios sobre la violencia en entornos sociales como la escuela suelen considerar tipos que van más allá de actos puramente físicos; ya que más allá de la violencia con sangre también existe la violencia psicológica o verbal. Autores como Welzer Lang, por ejemplo, al estudiar la violencia en el hogar no se limitan solo a la violencia física, sino que incluye la violencia psicológica – que incluye la humillación, el insulto, el ninguneo o la falta acusación-, la violencia verbal – que incluye el apodo, la ridiculización o la caricatura- y la violencia sexuada (WELZER-LANG, 2007). Tanto la violencia psicológica y verbal a través de la humillación o la burla afectan directamente la identidad ¿Y qué es la identidad? No debemos ningunear la identidad, “la identidad es el rostro de cada persona, que sola o en común se reconoce y se ofrece en el encuentro con el otro. Sin el reconocimiento de este rostro se pierden todas las libertades” (MEYER-BISCH, 1998). La burla, la caricatura, el ninguneo definen, y desfiguran, este rostro sin la posibilidad de que el rostro definido tenga la posibilidad de replicar esta categorización. Detrás de unas risas y el jolgorio el rostro de un sujeto o una comunidad se deforma, y se pude deformar hasta el punto, que en el encuentro con el otro lo que ve uno no es lo mismo que el sujeto ridiculizado. La burla no permite la réplica a la categorización presentada puesto que no pretende ser un diálogo abierto en búsqueda de la verdad, es un formato en el que la idea trasmitida se esconde y protege detrás de una masa de risas. Como me dijo una vez mi madre, “hubo más risas, pero menos sonrisas”. Es fácil observar que el fruto de la violencia en forma de burla, caricatura o el apodo pueden llevar al ninguneo y la deformación de la identidad de la persona burlada viniendo a continuación el insulto, la falsa acusación, y porque no la violencia física. Este patrón que tristemente lo observamos en las aulas bajo el paraguas del bullying conducen inexorablemente a la humillación y frustración de la persona ultrajada.

Este tribalismo lo hemos visto igualmente entre adultos: la humillación de Versalles, la Nakba, son dos ejemplos de una larga lista. No podemos desdeñar la humillación de una comunidad. La humillación de una comunidad, para el ciudadano de pie incluye el ultraje a su familia y con ello a una madre o a un hijo, tocando directamente las tripas y los instintos y, razonable o no, no es de extrañar la reacción de jabalí herido. Es muy complicado lidiar con la humillación, y cuando el ser humano no tiene vías institucionales de diálogo para ser escuchado la violencia es el último altavoz. Por ejemplo, mucha literatura francesa interpretó la violencia de los banlieus parisinos como la única forma de los jóvenes marginados de la sociedad de hacer oír su voz ante el Elíseo en 2005. Un día anoté la siguiente frase de Sartre “Desconfío de la incomunicabilidad; es la fuente de toda violencia” y creo que con el existencialista francés ya puedo dar por explicada la frase de Alfred.

Ignasi Grau
MEYER-BISCH, P. (1998). Journée de débat Général – Droit à l’éducation. Logiques du droit à l’éducation au sein des droits culturels (pág. 2). Genève: Comité des droits économiques, sociaux et culturels.
RICOEUR, P. (1999). Historía y narratividad. Barcelona: Paidós.
WELZER-LANG, D. (2007). La violencia doméstica a través de 60 preguntas y 59 respuestas. Alianza Editorial.


«L’éducation est l’instrument de l’auto-donation du sens»

close up of woman working


Alfred Fernandez disait souvent que l’éducation est l’instrument de l’auto-donation du sens. Nous pouvons observer cette affirmation dans plusieurs de ses ouvrages ainsi comme dans l’introduction de « l’Indice de Liberté d’Enseignement » (FERNANDEZ & GRAU, 2016).

Dans un article publié dans le livre « Le dû à tout homme. Situation et défis du système international de protection des droits de l’homme » Alfred approfondis sur ce concept. Dans cet article Alfred mentionnait que l’éducation est avant tout un droit culturel, car la personne qui est à la fois « mémoire » et « projet à réaliser »  se développe dans un milieu culturel.  Dans ce sens, l’éducation est l’un des moyens essentiels de la construction de la propre identité, qui permet à la personne de se construire à travers le lien entre son histoire et son projet personnel. Cette idée fut transmise aussi dans l’article 6 de la Déclaration de Fribourg sur les droits culturels : « Dans le cadre général du droit à l’éducation, toute personne, seule ou en commun, a droit, tout au long de son existence, à une éducation et à une formation qui, en répondant à ses besoins éducatifs fondamentaux, contribuent au libre et plein développement de son identité culturelle dans le respect des droits d’autrui et de la diversité culturelle ».

Alfred continuait ainsi « Il est indispensable de me permettre de devenir ce que je veux/dois être, de choisir mes appartenances, de chercher mon sens-on pourrait ainsi dire que le droit à l’éducation est en fin de compte, un droit au sens. Mais la recherche de mon sens doit se faire dans le cadre d’une société pluraliste. Il est nécessaire d’intégrer dans l’éducation un enseignement théorique et pratique au respect de la différence et de la diversité. C’est ce qu’on peut appeler une éducation à la tolérance. Enfin, pour être capable de comprendre le différent, sans l’assimiler ni le rejeter, il faut également une éducation à l’universel explicite, aux valeurs qui par-delà les différences sont communes à la condition humaine. Ces valeurs représentées par les droits de l’homme doivent être enracinées dans les différentes cultures pour faire de l’éducation un tout cohérent ».

Pour la réalisation du droit à l’éducation, Alfred mentionnait à Habermass quand il parlait de l’importance de garantir « à tous les citoyens un accès égal aux contextes culturels, aux rapports interpersonnels et aux traditions dans la mesure où ils sont nécessaires pour leur développement et renforcement de l’identité personnelle » (HABERMASS, 2003, p. 12).

Dans ce sens Alfred pensait l’école comme une « structure de sens » essentielle, qui doit répondre au « pourquoi » et ne pas se limiter au « comment ». L’école doit permettre de structurer la personnalité de l’élève et ne peut être un lieu seulement de connaissances purement instrumentales. Alfred souligne que l’école est « avant tout un lieu de formation éthique et l’éthique s’accommode mal de la neutralité ».

Le Comité de droits économiques, sociaux et culturels avertit aussi sur l’importance de l’approche culturelle du droit à l’éducation afin que les personnes et les communautés peuvent jouir de ces valeurs, religion, traditions, langues, coutumes et autres valeurs culturelles  (Comité des droits économiques, sociaux et culturels, 2009). Cette dimension culturelle de l’éducation est la dimension qui permet à chaque être humain la construction de son identité.

Pour savoir plus sur la vision d’Alfred Fernandez sur l’éducation comme instrument d’auto-donation de sens vous pouvez trouver l’ouvrage entier dans ce lien.

Ignasi Grau


Comité des droits économiques, sociaux et culturels. (2009). Observation générale no 21. Droit de chacun de participer à la vie culturelle (art. 15, par. 1 a) . Genève: OHCHR.

FERNANDEZ, A., & GRAU, I. (2016). Indice de Liberté d’Enseignement – Rapport 2016 sur les Libertés éducatives. Genève: OIDEL – Novae Terrae.

HABERMASS, J. (2003). De la tolerancia religiosa a los derechos culturales. Claves de la razón práctica n°129 , 4-13.



ID with the Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights: The importance of the cultural approach of the Right to Education

Today, the first of March, OIDEL participated in the Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights. The report presented by Special Rapporteur Karima Bennoune is an update of the situation of the mandate on its 10th anniversary. OIDEL has actively promoted the existence of this mandate and is looking forward to participating more actively in the following years. You can find the whole report in the following link:

Here you can read our intervention during the interactive dialogue:

We thank the Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights for her report for three main reasons. First, because her sincere efforts to show that the C of Economic, Social and Cultural rights is as important as the other two letters. Indeed, we join our voice to the voice of the Special Rapporteur to recall that the right to belong, to have an identity and to develop a specific world vision is essential to safeguard the dignity of the human being. Second, we welcome the efforts of the special rapporteur to show the history and the current situation of the cultural right from the Special Rapporteur perspective. And third, the Special Rapporteur in its point 45 of the report hopes to see the creation of a civil society coalition for cultural right at the UN. We would love to contribute to this idea.

OIDEL considers that the right to education is a pillar of cultural rights. As the General Comment n° 21 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights points “States should recall that the fundamental aim of educational development is the transmission and enrichment of common cultural and moral values in which the individual and society find their identity and worth. Thus, education must be culturally appropriate, including human rights education, enable children to develop their personality and cultural identity and to learn and understand cultural values and practices of the communities to which they belong, as well as those of other communities and societies (p. 26) ”.  We encourage the Special Rapporteur to consider the importance of the cultural approach of the right to education in its future reports. In a context of hate and violence, the international community needs to hear how to deal with the right to have an identity in our educational systems. Alfred Fernandez, the former director of OIDEL and a strong defender of cultural rights, used to say that one of the main reasons of violence in our world is due to the feeling that our cultural background is disdained. This is the moment to talk about the cultural approach of the right to education so our children learn who they are, so their education is respectful with the communities they live, and also that they learn to live within the diversity.

The importance of the cultural approach for quality of education for indigenous people

The UN 2030 Agenda includes a Goal for Sustainable Development aimed at ensuring “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. This Goal encompasses several dimensions of the Right to Education and one of its targets, Gender Equality and Inclusion, explicitly refers to indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations who, despite significant progress, are still denied access to education.

As for Indigenous peoples, policies for inclusive and equitable quality education should not merely focus on educational performance indicators such as attendance and literacy but they should also include concerns about indigenous cultures, languages and traditions, as well as integrating approaches and principles associated with indigenous communities into policymaking and school reforms. In this way, education would enhance Indigenous students’ personal and professional development and foster their integration into schools and societies, with due regard to their worldviews and cultural identity.

One of the key notions to achieve this is well-being, a multi-layered condition that encompasses several dimensions (cognitive, psychological, physical and social inter alia). The attainment of integral well-being stems from a holistic approach that considers the human being as a whole. This is why it figured among the guiding principles of a collaborative project that Alberta Education started with OECD in 2015 to improve learning outcomes for Indigenous students. The study involved schools from Canada, New Zealand and Australia and the results are illustrated in the OECD report Promising Practices in Supporting Success for Indigenous Students. In Canada, Indigenous students can choose between on reserve and off reserve schools, with the latter being either private or public. Off reserve private schools can be fully funded, partially funded or receive no public funding at all, depending on the jurisdiction, while public funding for on reserve schools comes from the Federal Government. In Australia, the Government has special responsibilities as for Indigenous students’ and migrants’ education, whereas in New Zealand the largest share of management responsibilities is entrusted to schools.

Although there are no dramatic differences between the well-being of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, the results of the study still give rise to concerns. Data show that Indigenous students generally present lower levels of confidence, weaker cultural identity and worse self-esteem. This may lead to decreased motivation, earlier school leave, worse school performance and, on the long term, exacerbated socio-economic inequalities. Tackling this problem is possible by understanding indigenous culture, language and identity as integral components of students’ well-being and by including the latter in educational policies. One of the best ways to increase Indigenous students’ well-being, and thereby school performance, is to promote their engagement. Feeling safe, well liked, integrated, and happy at school is the sine qua non for personal and educational development. To achieve this, it is crucial to incorporate indigenous values and approaches within the framework of each school.

The study aimed at identifying promising strategies to ensure better learning outcomes for Indigenous students. Some successful policies include increasing the visibility of indigenous cultures in schools, e.g. by decorating classrooms with indigenous symbols or by adopting indigenous cultural practises, as a school in Alberta did, where eagle-feather rituals were included in students’ graduation ceremonies. Moreover, it is desirable to increase the visibility of Indigenous people who play leadership roles within school and to actively involve Indigenous families and communities. As far as learning materials are concerned, one strategy is to include indigenous history, science and philosophy in the curricula and to use books and other resources developed by Indigenous people. Given the difficulties faced by many Indigenous students, some schools decided to provide a room dedicated for them, a “safe space” where to support and assistance, yet making sure that this does not evolve into a form of segregation. Providing learning opportunities in Indigenous languages turned out to be beneficial too, especially during the first years of education, when the student might feel the most vulnerable and alienated.

OECD report Doing Better for Children (2009) warns against deficit thinking in relation to education, namely the idea that Indigenous students lack of fundamental skills and assume that the main target is to rectify their shortcomings. A focus on disparities and deficiencies is surely necessary; however teaching should also build on those strengths and resources that children have already acquired in their everyday life. In this respect, the study highlighted that Indigenous students in Canada are more likely to be assessed with learning difficulties than non-Indigenous students. If provided with targeted support, the results can be stunning, while if they face lower expectations, their performance is seriously compromised.

Despite their heterogeneity, Indigenous students all face similar difficulties. I order to fulfil their right to education, it is essential to identify common challenges and build policies on resources that they all share, providing them with promising learning opportunities and better chances for the future. Societies must acknowledge the value that Indigenous communities represent in terms of pluralism and reciprocal cultural enrichment; similarly, educational systems should bear in mind that Indigenous peoples often have their own aspirations and definitions of success, thus the role of schools should be to provide children with the opportunity to realise their own ambitions and dreams, in accordance with their identity and their socio-cultural background.


Cecilia Litta Modignani