At international level, there are human rights mechanisms that monitor the implementation of the right to education. Some mechanisms are competent to receive complaints of right to education violations.

The Special Rapporteur on the right to education is an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report back the right to education either on a country situation or on a specific theme.

In the fulfilment of his/her mandate, the Special Rapporteur on the right to education:

  • Undertakes country visits

The Special Rapporteur carries out country visits to assess the progressive realisation of the right to education. He/she reports on the legal framework and concrete implementation, highlighting achievements and challenges, and providing conclusions and recommendations.

  • Responds to information received on allegations concerning violations of the right to education in particular countries

The Special Rapporteur can receive individual complaints on alleged violations of the right to education. To the limit of his/her available resources, he/she write to the concerned government, inviting comment on the allegation, seeking clarification, reminding it of its obligations under international law and requesting information, where relevant, on steps being taken by the authorities to redress the situation in question. The Special Rapporteur urges all parties to respond promptly to his/her communications and to take all steps necessary to redress situations involving the violation of the right to education. Communications from the Special Rapporteur to the government are confidential at the initial stage until the summary of the letters and the answer of the government are included in addendum 1 of the annual report submitted to the Human Rights Council.

See for instance a report on communications sent to and replies received from states. Other reports are available on the page listing the annual reports.

  • Develops constructive dialogue with governments, civil society and other relevant actors with a view to identifying solutions for the implementation of the right to education.

This is especially pertinent, as it allows the Special Rapporteur to get a more diversified view. Civil society must therefore play an active role in supporting and informing the Special Rapporteur.

  • Submits annual reports to the Human Rights Council and to the General Assembly covering the activities relating to the mandate

The Special Rapporteur writes both country specific reports and thematic reports. In the past years, thematic reports covering issues as: Privatisation in education, the Post-2015 Education Agenda, the Justiciability and the right to education, Technical and Vocation Education and Training (TVET), Normative action for quality education, Financing Basic Education, Equality of Opportunity in Education, Sexual Education, The right to education of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, The right to education of persons in detention, The Right to Education in emergencies situations, The right to education of persons with disabilities, Girls’s right to education. See more here.

The current Special Rapporteur is  Dr. Koumbou Boly Barry (Burkina Faso). She was appointed in August 2016.

See also UN Special Rapporteur website and the UN Special Rapporteurs' reports in our resource library.

Treaty bodies are committees of independent experts created under a particular UN treaty. They are mandated to monitor how states – which have ratified the treaty in question – comply with their obligations to implement the human rights guaranteed by the treaty, including the right to education. They periodically examine state reports and issue concluding observations on states’ compliance with the treaty, including recommendations.

Some of them can also receive individual complaints or communications in case of human rights violations, including the right to education.

They also adopt General Comments, which are an authoritative interpretation of the treaties’ provisions. Some relate specifically to the right to education.

Below is a list of the UN treaty bodies most relevant to the right to education:

The Human Rights Council (HRC) is an inter-governmental body within the UN system made up of 47 states responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the world. The HRC was created in 2006 by the UN General Assembly with the main purpose of addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them. It has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention.

The HRC has two human rights mechanisms: the Universal Periodic Review and the Complaint Procedure.

Universal Periodic Review

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. The UPR is a state-driven process which provides the opportunity for each state to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations. Each state is examined every four years.

Under this system, states themselves examine other states, which means there is a great degree of ‘politics’ entering into the process – in the forms of both peer pressure and unholy alliances between countries with shared interests. But it also gives great room for civil society to play an influential role by submitting shadow reports with additional information, and to put pressure on the either the examined or the examining states to focus on the critical issues.

State reports and reports of the Working Group – which includes conclusions, recommendations and voluntary commitments made by state – often provide information regarding the right to education. See UNESCO Database on the Right to Education and OHCHR Database on UPR Documentation by country.

See also:

Complaint procedure

The complaint procedure was established in 2007 to address consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested violations of all human rights and all fundamental freedoms occurring in any part of the world and under any circumstances.

The complaint procedure addresses communications submitted by individuals, groups, or non-governmental organisations that claim to be victims of human rights violations or that have direct, reliable knowledge of such violations. There are specific criteria for a communication to be accepted for examination. More details here.

This procedure is confidential, with a view to enhance co-operation with the state concerned.

Two distinct working groups - the Working Group on Communications (WGC) and the Working Group on Situations (WGS) – are responsible for examining complaints.

The WGC is composed of five human rights experts, from each of the five geographic regions, sitting on the HRC Advisory Committee. The WGC examines if the complaint fulfils the specific criteria. If so, it transfers the complaint to the WGS, which consists of five members from the Human Rights Council, again, one from each geographic region. The WGS meets twice a year to consider new complaints as well as the progress made on complaints submitted in the previous years. After receiving advice of the WGC, it presents the Human Rights Council with a report on the case and makes recommendations on the course of action to take.

The Committee on Conventions and Recommendations (CR) is a subsidiary organ of UNESCO’s Executive Board. Its mandate is:

  • To monitor the implementation of UNESCO legal instruments - including 2 Conventions and 7 recommendations in the field of education – by examining reports received from Member States, in particular those relating to the right to education. More information on this reporting mechanism here.
  • To examine cases of human rights violations within UNESCO’s field of competence, including the right to education, through its communications and complaints procedures. This is a confidential procedure which aims to seek an amicable solution to cases brought to UNESCO’s attention. A large number of complaints examined and communication settled by the CR have resulted in the protection of the right to education.