Human Rights Council begins dialogue with Special Rapporteur on education, concludes discussion with Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons

The Human Rights Council this morning began an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to education after concluding an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, said it was crucial to act within the framework of human rights to ensure that the measures adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic did not compromise the right to education nor increase the suffering of the most marginalized. It was crucial to take stock of what had happened and analyse the short-, medium- and long-term impact of this crisis on education, to generate positive change, not reverse the progress made in recent decades, particularly in terms of access to education. She also spoke about her visits to Tunisia and Qatar.
Qatar and Tunisia spoke as concerned countries. The National Human Rights Committee of Qatar also took the floor.
In the ensuing debate, speakers said school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted girls more severely, and undermined the progress made on the right of education for all across the world. Millions of children had been kept out of schools because of the pandemic, and did not have access to information technologies, notably in Sub-Saharan Africa. Even prior to the pandemic, the world had been experiencing an education crisis with a significant percentage of children from middle and low-income countries unable to read a simple text by the age of 10.
Speaking in the interactive debate were Estonia on behalf of a group of countries, State of Palestine on behalf of the Arab Group, European Union, Burkina Faso on behalf of the African Group, United Nations Children’s Fund, Togo, Holy See (video message), Malaysia, Russian Federation, Djibouti, Sierra Leone, Libya, China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, France, Pakistan, Senegal, Armenia, India (video message), Portugal and Iran.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children. The interactive dialogue started in a previous meeting and the summary can be found here.
In the discussion on trafficking in persons, speakers supported the Special Rapporteur’s renewed focus on the protection and rehabilitation of victims of trafficking of human beings, highlighting poverty and demand as particularly important causes. The protection of migrant rights was directly linked to the prevention of human trafficking, and the protection of victims. Speakers also thanked the Special Rapporteur for her work throughout her six-year tenure.
Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, in concluding remarks, stated that with regard to concrete action, States must change their legislation and there was a need for a new wave of laws inspired by the human rights agenda. The international community should be open in the future to the vision of a new human rights global instrument against trafficking, slavery, forced labour and exploitation in general terms. Ms. Giammarinaro thanked the Council for the opportunity to work on this mandate for the last six years.
Speaking during the interactive debate were the Sovereign Order of Malta (video message), Angola, China, Djibouti, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, France, Pakistan, Armenia, Philippines (video message), Namibia, Australia, Iran, Belarus (video message), Mexico, Jordan, Indonesia, South Africa, Morocco, Bahrain, Iraq, Greece, Ireland, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Nepal, Switzerland, Nigeria, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Marshall Islands, United Arab Emirates, Georgia, Holy See (video message), Ecuador, Serbia, Myanmar, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, India and the Russian Federation.
The following civil society organizations also took the floor : Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd (video message), Defence for Children International, Edmund Rice International Limited, Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination, Heath and Environment Program, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (video message), Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc, Ingenieurs du Monde, China Society for Human Rights Studies (video message), Iraqi Development Organization, Institut International pour les Droits et le Développement and Alsalam Foundation.
The Council will next meet this afternoon at 3 p.m. to conclude the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to education. It will also conclude its interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, and will then hear the Special Rapporteur on the right to health present his reports.
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children
The interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, started in a previous meeting and the summary can be found here.
Discussion
In the discussion, speakers supported the Special Rapporteur’s renewed focus on the protection and rehabilitation of victims of trafficking of human beings. The human rights of victims had to be at the centre of any legislation that was designed to prevent trafficking crimes, and States should avoid incorporating xenophobic and anti-migrant rhetoric. The protection of the rights of migrants was directly linked to the prevention of human trafficking, and the protection of victims. National authorities were called on to strengthen anti-trafficking legislation, and especially to work closely with regional mechanisms as one of the most effective ways of preventing trafficking. The international response was raised by multiple speakers, who sought more information on how it could be strengthened. Human trafficking continued to affect the most vulnerable people, including women, children and migrants. The report’s mention of the role of private sector companies in fighting trafficking was discussed, as speakers asked about specific ways in which national authorities could collaborate more closely with businesses. It was important to deal with the stigma associated with human trafficking for sex, as some speakers emphasised that the porn industry was feeding the demand for human trafficking, noting that the case of Jeffrey Epstein showed how this problem existed at the highest levels of national authorities in the West.
Interim Remarks by the Special Rapporteur
MARIA GRAZIA GIAMMARINARO, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, stated that regarding labour exploitation and the role of businesses – voluntary schemes were not enough, as there were no tools in place to deal with issues if they were detected. A smart mix between voluntary and State imposed obligations must be instituted so that businesses understood that there were expectations from States, such as the recent anti-slavery laws adopted by a variety of States, while the most advanced legislation in this regard was in France. Legislation in labour exploitation was still at an early stage.
Discussion
Continuing the discussion, speakers thanked the Special Rapporteur for her work throughout her six-year tenure. Trafficking in persons was one of the worst transboundary crimes, existing at an intersection of multiple violations of various human rights. Speakers affirmed that awareness-raising campaigns on the risks of trafficking in persons were an important pillar in order to combat this crime. It was also important to increase the cooperation between States and civil society, as speakers sought specific information on how this could be achieved more effectively. Combatting exclusion, racism and xenophobia was important in the fight against trafficking in persons. While COVID-19 had shifted global focus, the world must not forget the fight against trafficking. If men, women and children were trafficked, ultimately this was because demand existed and profits could be made by criminal actors, therefore efforts should be made to tackle trafficking from the demand side as well. Other speakers noted that it was clear that the root cause of trafficking was poverty. While the victim-first focus was welcomed, speakers noted that the experience of effective prosecution of operators showed that it could be a significant future deterrent. Legislation was important, at the same time a strong bridge was needed between distant global norms and local action. Speakers stressed the need for survival funds to maintain the work of local non-governmental organizations in light of the negative effects of COVID-19 ; these funds were crucial in combating trafficking in persons.
Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur
MARIA GRAZIA GIAMMARINARO, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, stated that with regard to concrete action, States must change their legislation and there was a need for a new wave of laws inspired by the human rights agenda. First, States must address labour exploitation that was being exacerbated by COVID-19. Second, residence status must not be a conditional criteria for assistance, as it left migrants more vulnerable. Third, States must ensure free and speedy access to remedies to victims, irrespective of resident or legal status. Fourth, the non-punishment principle should be correctly implemented everywhere. Fifth, a new methodology to identify vulnerabilities, especially in the context of mixed migration flows, was needed. The international community should be open in the future to the vision of a new human rights global instrument against trafficking, slavery, forced labour and exploitation in general terms. Ms. Giammarinaro concluded by thanking the Council for the opportunity to work on this mandate for the last six years.
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education
Documentation
The Council has before it the **Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education **(A/HRC/44/39).
The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education **on her **Visit to Qatar (A/HRC/44/39/Add.1).
The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education **on her **Visit to Tunisia (A/HRC/44/39/Add.2).
The Council has before it the **Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education on her visit to Qatar – Comments by the State **(A/HRC/44/39/Add.3).
Presentation of Reports by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education
KOUMBOU BOLY BARRY, Special Rapporteur on the right toeducation, regarding her visit to Tunisia, said she would like to recognize all of the great innovations that education stakeholders in Tunisia had undertaken, for example to enable people in prison, particularly young girls and women, to have access to education. She also recognized that there was still a set of challenges, including financing education, implementing of all the reforms that had been undertaken by Tunisia, the brain drain, and the privatization and commodification of education.
Turning to her visit to Qatar, she noted that the Government, within the framework of the National Vision 2030, had expressed very loudly its desire to set up a modern world-class education system which offered students first-class education, comparable to that available all over the world. She commended Qatar for putting in place mechanisms to take care of those who had been left behind, and setting up funds and foundations, but also mechanisms for reflection. However, she would especially like to make sure of the effectiveness of the right to education for the children of migrant workers and encouraged Qatar to uphold the right to free education for non-Qatari children.
It was crucial to act within the framework of human rights to ensure that the measures adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic did not compromise the right to education nor increase the suffering of the most marginalized. It was crucial to take stock of what had happened and analyse the short-, medium- and long-term impact of this crisis on education, to generate positive change, not reverse the progress made in recent decades, particularly in terms of access to education. The impact of the crisis must be assessed without losing sight of the general and broader context : public education systems remained underfunded and under pressure, inequalities in education were intolerable, and access to education remained a dream for many. Recalling that 258 million children and young people were already out of school before the pandemic, including children with disabilities, she warned against the temptation to consider high-tech solutions as the main or best means of ensuring the continuity of education in times of crisis. She also underlined the importance of considering the situation and the rights of teachers and other education workers, in particular their right to enjoy conditions of fair and favourable work, social security, to form unions of their choice and to join these unions, as well their right to health.
Statements by Concerned Countries
Qatar, speaking as a concerned country, thanked the Special Rapporteur for her visit and her report. Qatar had made quality education for all a priority. In light of the violations that had resulted from the embargo and coercive measures imposed on Qatar and its citizens since 5 June 2017, the Government had made efforts to address the situation, and the Special Rapporteur had acknowledged these efforts. The Government was working to combat discrimination in the field of education, as the Qatari Constitution enshrined the right of education as an indispensable right. In Qatar, education was compulsory and free for all children, irrespective of their background and capabilities. Qatar was proud to be a country that offered a quality education that ranked high, both regionally and internationally. Regarding migrant workers, in order to develop their skills, and improve literacy amongst them, a government strategy had been put in place, which aimed to foster their insertion in the labour market. Partnerships with the private sector, amongst other measures, had been put in place to that end.
National Human Rights Committee of Qatar, speaking via video message, welcomed the visit of the Special Rapporteur to Qatar and supported all the recommendations in the report. Going above and beyond the recommendations, the provision of free education in public schools and further support for certain nationalities and children with disabilities was emphasised. The culture of human rights must be spread to all schools, both public and private.
Tunisia, speaking as a concerned country, thanked the Special Rapporteur for her comprehensive report on her visit to Tunisia in 2019, which had been conducted following the extension of an invitation by the Government. The Government was satisfied with the report, which highlighted the positive steps taken in the country, notably concerning the importance given to education by the State. Modern, compulsory and free education had been a pillar in Tunisia since its independence, and had contributed to the economic and social empowerment of women and girls. Pedagogic reforms were underway, and the Government sought to reduce the gap between services provided in urban and rural areas, aiming to provide educational service to all students regardless of where they lived. It had also put in place measures to prevent pupils from dropping out. Tunisia, like other countries, faced challenges, some of which had become worse because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it continued to work to fully implement the right to education.
Discussion
Speakers said that school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted girls more severely, and undermined the progress made on the right of education for all across the world. Millions of children were kept out of school because of the pandemic, and did not have access to information technologies, notably in Sub-Saharan Africa. Even prior to the pandemic, the world was experiencing an education crisis with a significant percentage of children from middle- and low-income countries unable to read a simple text by the age of 10. The lack of social services once provided by schools was noted as having a particularly worrying effect. The concerns regarding online distance learning tools with regard to exacerbating existing inequalities were reiterated, yet the importance of online learning was also emphasised, as speakers called for the promotion of inclusive online learning. While acknowledging the need to minimize the harm of the pandemic on vulnerable groups, some speakers said some of the recommendations put forward by the Special Rapporteur were excessively intrusive. Highlighting measures put in place in their respective countries, speakers emphasised that education was a strategic priority, which was at the heart of their human capital development efforts.
Speakers noted that the pandemic had increased children’s exposure to domestic violence and impeded their access to school meals. At the same time, it was paramount that the return to school be conducted in a manner that abided by strict public health measures. As education was key to eliminate poverty in a sustainable manner, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur should be renewed.
Interim Remarks by the Special Rapporteur
KOUMBOU BOLY BARRY, Special Rapporteur on the right toeducation, in her interim remarks, thanked the speakers for their positive comments and questions. In Qatar, almost all recommendations had been either implemented, or were in the process of being implemented, reflecting the productive work that was done by the Special Rapporteur in Qatar with all stakeholders. Ms. Barry reiterated her thanks to Tunisia for providing a platform for civil society, building a forum where all actors were able to speak out, and it was essential that the recommendations from the forum were implemented. Ensuring that appropriate measures were taken to organise remote learning in the best way meant having education policies that factored in this dimension, and took into account development goals. Establishing communication at national and local levels meant allowing civil society and parents associations to fully participate. Teaching content and material must be well thought-out, but it was important to underline that no one could replace a teacher, who was the most important ingredient in providing quality education. It was important to explore practical examples of successful programmes, and doing so made clear that success relied heavily on clear and direct cooperation with all stakeholders.

Source: UN Human Rights Council

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