Passing of Alfred FERNANDEZ, General director of the International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education (OIDEL) and founder of the Collège Universitaire Henry Dunant (CUHD)

It is with deepest sadness that OIDEL informs you of the passing of Alfred FERNANDEZ, General director of the International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education (OIDEL) and founder of the Collège Universitaire Henry Dunant (CUHD). Alfred died last Monday 29th of October at 13h05 due to a brain tumor that developed rapidly in a few months.

Alfred was a member of the Chair UNESCO of the University of La Rioja (Spain) and the Chair UNESCO of the University of Bergamo (Italy), he was a professor of Comparative Education at the University of Geneva and director of the UNED (Open National University, Spain) in Switzerland. He served in various positions in NGOs, among them we can highlight the coordination of the NGO Platform on the Right to Education and of the NGO Platform on Diversity and Cultural Rights.

Mr. Fernandez devoted all his life, both professional and personal, to the promotion and protection of human rights. He worked for the right to education and freedom of education, with the conviction that this right was fundamental for the full development of the person. Alfred has participated as an expert or representative of civil society in hundreds of international meetings on the right to education, as well as on economic, social and cultural rights at the United Nations, UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the European Union, and particularly in the Council of Human Rights, among other fora. Throughout his whole career, Alfred created more than twenty human rights training programs, involving more than 2,000 participants from over 110 different countries.

For those who have had the immense honor of working and collaborating with him, we will remember him as a humble, bright and open-minded person. His kindness and magnanimity have comforted many hearts. It was a person with an extraordinary intellect, great kindness and sensibility, Mr. Fernandez was well respected by all those who worked with him.

Mr. Fernandez with his great sense of humor and optimism will be missed a lot. Yet, the OIDEL team wishes to keep up with the good work as a way to pay tribute to a great man.

The funeral Mass will be held on Friday the 2nd of November 2018 at 2pm in Sainte Thérèse Church (Avenue Peschier 12, CH-1206, à Genève). From now on, it is possible to pay him a last tribute to his remains at Murith funeral chapel (Boulevard de la Cluse, n° 89 CH-1205, Geneva).

The OIDEL Team

“Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matthew, 25, 21)


Décès de M. Alfred FERNANDEZ, directeur général de l’Organisation Internationale pour le Droit à l’Education et la Liberté d’Enseignement (OIDEL) et fondateur du Collège Universitaire Henry Dunant (CUHD)

OIDEL a le profond regret et l’immense tristesse de vous faire part du décès de M. Alfred FERNANDEZ, directeur général de l’Organisation Internationale pour le Droit à l’Education et la Liberté d’Enseignement (OIDEL) et fondateur du Collège Universitaire Henry Dunant (CUHD). M. Fernandez s’est éteint, le lundi 29 Octobre à 13h05 enlevé de notre tendre affection des suites d’un cancer foudroyant au cerveau.

Alfred Fernandez était membre de la Chaire UNESCO de l’Université de la Rioja (Espagne), et de l’Université de Bergame (Italie) ; Professeur d’éducation comparée à l’Université de Genève, et directeur du Bureau de l’UNED (Université nationale d’enseignement à distance – Espagne) en Suisse. Il était également le coordinateur de Plateformes à l’ONU pour le Droit à l’éducation et de la Plateforme pour la Diversité et les Droits Culturels.

Alfred a travaillé toute sa vie, professionnelle et personnelle, pour la promotion et protection des droits de l’homme¸ notamment pour le droit à l’éducation et la liberté d’enseignement, un droit humain fondamental pour le développement de la personne. Alfred a participé comme expert ou représentant de la société civile à des centaines de réunions internationales sur le droit à l’éducation, les droits économiques, sociaux et culturels dans le cadre des Nations Unies, de l’UNESCO, du Conseil de l’Europe, de l’Union Européenne, au Conseil des droits de l’homme, parmi d’autres. Au cours de sa prestigieuse et longue carrière, il a créé plus d’une vingtaine de programmes de formation en droits de l’homme et formé plus de 2000 participants de plus de 110 pays différents.

Pour celles et ceux qui ont eu l’immense honneur et bonheur de travailler ou collaborer avec lui, nous gardons le souvenir d’une personne humble, lumineuse, d’une grande ouverture d’esprit. Alfred était toujours à l’écoute et sa bonté infinie a réchauffé le cœur de plusieurs personnes en détresse. Pourvu d’une intelligence hors pair, d’une bonté naturelle, d’une gentillesse et d’une sensibilité exquise, Alfred était naturellement très respecté de tous.

La bonne humeur et l’optimisme d’Alfred vont beaucoup nous manquer, particulièrement dans ces moments difficiles. Malgré tout, l’équipe de l’OIDEL souhaite continuer à aller de l’avant avec ses activités et rendre ainsi hommage à Alfred.

Les obsèques auront lieu à la paroisse de Sainte Thérèse, (Avenue Peschier 12, CH-1206, à Genève) le vendredi 2 Novembre à 14h00. A partir d’aujourd’hui après midi on peut veiller sa dépouille à la chapelle funéraire Murith (Boulevard de la Cluse, n°89 CH-1205, Genève).

Votre présence sera la bienvenue si vous avez la possibilité de rendre un dernier hommage à ce grand homme.

L’équipe de l’OIDEL

“Son maître lui dit: C’est bien, bon et fidèle serviteur; tu as été fidèle en peu de chose, je te confierai beaucoup; entre dans la joie de ton maître.” (Matthieu, 25, 21)

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

L’éducation aux droits de l’homme : Socle pour une société démocratique

Le 25 septembre 2018, lors de la 39ème session du Conseil des droits de l’homme, s’est tenu un événement parallèle particulièrement intéressant abordant le thème de la jeunesse et de l’éducation aux droits de l’homme, organisé par la Mission Permanente du Maroc.

La thématique de l’éducation aux droits de l’homme est fondamentale et fait partie d’un des piliers des droits de l’homme. En effet, comme l’a souligné M. Omar Zniber, Ambassadeur de la Mission Permanente du Royaume du Maroc, lors de son discours d’ouverture, cette éducation permet de créer un socle pour une société démocratique, plurielle et pacifique. Elle permet notamment une émancipation et une autonomisation des jeunes dans la société, et conduit à une égalité hommes-femmes. Afin de parvenir à un tel résultat, il est nécessaire d’axer l’éducation sur le partage des valeurs, la tolérance et encourager la justice sociale.

L’école joue un rôle majeur dans l’éducation aux droits de l’homme. De ce fait, M. Omar Zniber souligne la primordialité d’analyser le contenu des manuels scolaires, afin de vérifier s’ils sont conformes aux principes d’une telle éducation, et s’ils comportent des éléments dédiés à cette thématique. En effet, à titre d’exemple, les stéréotypes de genre présents dans de nombreux manuels scolaires peuvent influencer la vision des enfants, et ainsi renforcer les inégalités de genre.

De plus, outre un matériel adéquat, il est également nécessaire outiller les personnes intervenant auprès des enfants en développant des formations pour les enseignants. En effet, il est troublant d’observer que de nos jours, dans les formations à l’éducation et à l’enseignement, notamment en Suisse, nombreuses sont celles qui n’abordent que très peu, voire pas du tout cette thématique. Former les enseignants à cette éducation permettrait par conséquent de préparer l’avenir dans le cadre d’une société équilibrée sur des principes fondamentaux.

Toutefois, Hind Idrissi Ayoubi, Membre du Comité pour les droits de l’enfant, met en exergue le fait que l’éducation aux droits de l’homme ne se fait pas uniquement dans le contexte scolaire. « Il s’agit d’une culture qui fait partie de notre quotidien, de nos choix ». En effet, l’éducation aux droits de l’homme nécessite une approche globale ne se focalisant pas uniquement sur l’école. Celle-ci doit également se faire au travers d’interactions notamment avec la famille et les pairs. En outre, il est essentiel de prendre en compte le contexte afin d’éduquer les enfants et les jeunes aux droit de l’homme en fonction de leur société. En effet, selon Elena Ippoliti, Membre de la section méthodologie, éducation et formation du Haut-Commissariat des Nations Unies aux droits de l’homme, l’éducation aux droits de l’homme doit être menée par le biais d’activités cohérentes liées à la vie quotidienne de l’enfant et du jeune. En effet, Marie Wernham, Consultante en éducation des droits de l’enfant à l’UNICEF, souligne que cette éducation doit faire en sorte que tous, dans tous les domaines de vie, soient informés de leurs droits et les comprennent de manière approfondie. La Convention relative aux droit de l’enfant est par conséquent l’instrument de base de cette thématique.

Enfin, l’éducation aux droits de l’homme est fondamentale pour les enfants et les jeunes d’aujourd’hui. En effet, celle-ci permet de préparer l’avenir en leur donnant les outils pour bâtir des sociétés justes, pacifiques et résilientes.


Julie Mendola

Education, Family and Migration

Nowadays, migration is mainly thought of in individualistic terms, as an experience that affects isolated individuals. In reality, one of the most dramatic spheres of migration is the family dimension, as mentioned by the Archbishop I. Jurkovič, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN, during the event «Family and Migration» in occasion of the 39th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Migrants are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, nephews, fiancés and much more; nevertheless the central position of families within the debates about migration is often overshadowed. Family policies and migration policies are too often kept separated, even though these two realities are deeply intertwined. Giving this connection the space it deserves means defending migrants’ right to family life and family unity, which is one of the best ways to ensure the respect of their dignity as human beings whose life is enriched with personal relationships.

The current refugee crisis is multi-layered and presents several difficulties, however it is specifically in connection with one of its challenges that education comes into play and can help in the achievement of long lasting results.

As Maria Mercedes Rossi, representative of APG23, pointed out during her intervention, politicians and other public figures often promote a distortive narrative on migrants, endorsing a misleading image that needs to be opposed by all means. Sure enough, educating the population and most of all young generations to the values of tolerance and inclusion is a fundamental step to achieve the harmonious integration of migrant families within their hosting communities. As it was mentioned during the conference, a toxic narrative produces false perceptions that can result into harmful attitudes such as racism, xenophobia and discrimination. It is therefore fundamental to educate children and young people to the meaning of diversity, making them understand the value of a heterogeneous society. The school system has a demanding but worthwhile duty, i.e. to give the right inputs to students, in order to encourage positive perceptions and attitudes.

Many of the speakers mentioned Pope Francis’ four leading verbs that guided the drafting of the 20 Action Points for the Global Compact on Migrants and Refugees: to Welcome, to Protect, to Promote and to Integrate. The last two acquire special relevance when it comes to education. “To Promote” recalls that the main goal of all interventions must be the integral human development of migrants and of their welcoming communities, and education has the power to boost such flourishing. “To Integrate” recollects all the reciprocal processes that involve migrants and hosting communities, fostering dialogue among different cultures. Schools as well as families are the primary actors in such processes of integration.

To conclude, another intervention highlighted the role of education in promoting a culture of respect and acceptance towards migrants. Nowadays, the word «migrant» is merely used with reference to those who arrived recently, in the last few years or maybe months, and who are treated with suspicion and mistrust because of their frequent lack of documents, fixed accommodation or occupation. And yet, some migrants have been living in their hosting communities and serving them for many years, but this is often forgotten.

They are the proof that, with the right assistance and support, everyone can contribute to the flourishing of the society. This is why it is important to defend migrant’s right to family life and family unity, because if properly guided and welcomed in favourable conditions, they can fully integrate into the hosting communities, generating a value that only diversity is able to provide.


Cecilia Litta Modignani

Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples – OIDEL OS:

Last Wednesday, 19 of September OIDEL participated in the Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples. You can find the report of the special report in the following link. Here you have the oral declaration of OIDEL to recall the importance of education as a cultural right to guarantee the rights of indigenous people.

“Thank you, Mr. vice-president,

First of all, we want to thank and support the special rapporteur Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz for her report. OIDEL considers that this compilation of complaints and violations against human rights is necessary to start improving the situation of indigenous peoples.

One right we miss among the human rights violations compilation against indigenous peoples is the right to education. Article 5 of the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity says, “All persons are entitled to quality education and training that fully respect their cultural identity ». Inclusion in education is a matter of quality and respect of identities, and thus inclusion of all members of the political community, including all the identities such as national minorities or indigenous peoples.

Emmanuel Kant said that “Man can become Man only through education”. Indeed, when we talk about education, we are in the field of the right of “Being”, in the field of identity, and not only in the field of the right “to possess” cultural rights. That is why Faure (1972) and Delors (1996) insist on education as “learning to be”.

Article 14 of the Declaration of Indigenous peoples states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning”. The holistic vision of the right to education is essential for indigenous peoples as it guarantees their right “to be” and the right “to be” of their children. I am afraid that many violations against the right of indigenous peoples to establish and control their educational institutions are taking place. This right is essential in order to guarantee that their culture, traditions and language are respected and learned. I would like to ask the special rapporteur to take into consideration this dimension and maybe consider it for the next report.”


Ignasi Grau

Génocide et éducation

En ce jeudi 13 septembre 2018, quatrième jour après le début du Conseil des Droits de l’Homme aux Nations Unies à Genève, une problématique pertinente a été soulevée : le génocide.

En effet, le 9 décembre 2018, la Convention pour la prévention du crime de génocide fêtera son 70ème anniversaire, et il est déconcertant d’observer qu’aujourd’hui, 45 Etats membres des Nations Unies n’ont pas encore pris la décision de rejoindre les Etats signataires. Le défaut d’engagement d’un nombre si important d’Etats est tout à fait troublant, souligne Mr. Adama Dieng, Conseiller spécial du Secrétaire Général sur la prévention du génocide, lors du débat de haut niveau pour le 70ème anniversaire de la Convention pour la prévention du crime de génocide. Ce dernier fait alors un appel en faveur d’une ratification de tous les Etats, insistant sur une obligation morale vis-à-vis de l’humanité et un témoignage de reconnaissance du gouvernement à l’égard de sa propre population. En effet, il en est de la responsabilité de chaque Etat de protéger sa population, c’est pourquoi une ratification universelle est pertinente selon de nombreuses délégations.

Comme l’ont souligné de nombreux intervenants et représentants d’Etats, le génocide est un crime ultime contre l’humanité. Selon Mr. William Schabas, Professeur de droit international, de droit pénal international et de droit de l’homme, cet acte est le résultat d’une faille profonde de l’humanité, résultant de l’idée qu’un groupe ethnique serait supérieur ou inférieur à un autre. En outre, il n’y a pas de justice pour les victimes, c’est pourquoi la lutte contre l’impunité est primordiale. La justice transitionnelle est alors partie intégrante de cette lutte et est essentielle, particulièrement en période post-conflit.

Toutefois, Mr. Adama Dieng soutient que l’on observe un recul dans cette lutte contre l’impunité, c’est pourquoi l’éducation doit entrer en jeu. En effet, selon lui, elle est la « clé qui nous permet de résoudre les problèmes de notre planète », et joue un rôle important dans la prévention de ces crimes. L’éducation est alors un réel outil de prévention des violations des droits de l’homme et des crimes de masse, c’est pourquoi il nécessaire d’investir dans celle-ci. En effet, aux accords de nombreux intervenants et représentants d’Etats, afin de garantir la non-répétition de ces actes, il est primordial de mettre l’accent sur la prévention, étant un des piliers de la stratégie de la communauté internationale. De plus, la lutte contre le génocide doit être proactive, c’est pourquoi le rôle de l’éducation prend tout son sens. Le représentant d’Etat de l’Israël souligne que les Etats ont la responsabilité, dès l’âge le plus précoce, d’éduquer à la tolérance et au respect. Il faut veiller à ce que les générations futures apprennent grâce au passé, l’éducation permettant de transmettre la mémoire selon le représentant d’Etat de l’Afrique du Sud. Mr. Fabian Savioli, Rapporteur spécial sur la promotion de la vérité, de la justice, de la réparation et des garanties de non-répétition, soutient que prévenir les génocides se fait grâce à une culture de la paix active et en encourageant l’éducation afin d’éviter tout type de discrimination, celle-ci étant à l’origine de nombreuses violations des droits de l’homme.

Enfin, le Ministre des affaires étrangères de l’Arménie, Mr. Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, souligne que le rôle de l’éducation pour la promotion et la culture du respect des droits de l’homme est essentiel pour la prévention. L’éducation serait-elle alors la solution ultime afin de combattre les crimes de génocides et revenir à plus d’humanité ?

Julie Mendola