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Growing UN consensus to improve regulation of education in accordance with human rights law
by Sylvain Aubry
Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, agencies
The UN Human Rights Council – the top global human rights body – adopted yesterday (6.7.2018) an international resolution emphasising with unprecedented consensus the urgent need to better regulate private education providers in order to address the negative impacts of the commercialisation of education, and to do so following human rights principles.
The resolution urges all States “to put in place a regulatory framework to ensure the regulation of all education providers, including those operating independently or in partnership with States, guided by international human rights law and principles, that… addresses any negative impact of the commercialization of education” (paragraph 5).
The resolution, which was adopted without the need for a vote, highlights the increasing consensus among States regarding the human rights requirement to regulate education providers and to address the negative impacts of commercialisation in education. The resolution includes, for the first time, two paragraphs (4 and 5) on the regulation of private actors in education in the core of the text, which States did not question during the negotiations of the text. It also further clarifies and strengthens the language by specifying that States’ regulatory frameworks must “ensure the regulation of all education providers”, unambiguously requiring to regulate private providers.
This is the fourth resolution in as many years to outline the concerns over the growth of commercialisation of education. It comes against a background of a massive expansion in unregulated private education providers in developing countries in the last 15 years. This trend raises human rights concerns about commercial actors, such as Bridge International Academies, which attracted complaints from human rights organisations worldwide.
The 2018 text provides significant support for States, in particular in the Global South, that have been struggling in the last years to bring order into the myriad of private providers operating in their education systems. Uganda and Kenya have gained attention in the last months for their attempts to close private schools that negatively impact children’s rights, including multinational for-profit companies supported by powerful donors that seek to operate with disregard for human rights standards in order to reduce costs.
This year’s resolution also welcomes “the development by experts of guiding principles and tools for States” as part of the steps to implement the right to education. This reflects the support from States for processes such as ongoing efforts of a group of experts to develop Human Rights Guiding Principles on private actors in education which will operationalise existing human rights law in the context of the growth of private actors in education. These Guiding Principles, which were also welcomed during the Council discussions, will be adopted in early 2019 and help States fulfil the Human Rights Council’s requirement to put in place a regulatory framework “guided by international human rights law and principles” (paragraph 5).
The signing organisations will continue working with all interested stakeholders to strengthen public education delivery and to ensure that all actors in education are accountable and operate in accordance with human rights law.
* Signatories: Amnesty International, Equal Education Law Centre (South Africa), Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Initiative for Economic and Social Rights (Uganda), Right to Education Initiative
* 2018 Human Rights Council Resolution on the right to education:

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The fundamental rights of older people need to be better protected
by HelpAge International, agencies
Older people''s experiences of care and support must be heard, by Ellie Parravani
For a convention on older people''s rights to be strong and effective, it must reflect older people''s experiences across the world. This means we must make sure that older people are listened to every step of the way.
This July, member states and civil society organisations will get together at the 9th United Nations Open-ended Working Group on Ageing (OEWG). There they will talk about older people''s rights to long-term care and support, palliative care, and autonomy and independence, and how they should be framed in any new instrument on the rights of older people, such as a convention.
When the themes for 9th OEWG were announced, we set out to explore older people''s experiences of these rights. HelpAge International''s network members across the world held focus groups with 450 older people who talked about the availability of long-term care and palliative care in their communities, and what the barriers are in accessing them.
From Argentina to Zambia, many older people said they had little access to or control over the care and support services they need to live independent lives. And they said palliative care services are hard to access or, in many cases, do not exist at all.
Long-term care and support services are inaccessible and unaffordable
Long-term care and support are the services and assistance people receive to support with daily tasks like eating, washing, getting dressed or going out. In older age, these kinds of services are important to maintain other rights, including the freedom to live autonomously and independently.
Older people in every region told us that long-term care and support services are limited and unaffordable to everyone except those with high incomes. The types of care and support available varies, but often family members are the only providers.
"There are no support services available to older people in my community. Only family members are taken as or believed to provide assistance with daily activities. But this does not happen for all," said a 71-year-old woman in Nepal.
The lack of care and support services forces older people to be dependent on family members, what they can provide may not be adequate to meet a person''s needs. For instance, in Serbia, one man said he has a lot of say over the care and support he receives, but what his relatives can actually do is limited.
But family members may not respect an older person''s autonomy. This denies them their independence. A 68-year-old woman in Nigeria told us: "Since my son has brought me to live in their apartment in the city, I do not have a say anymore. Sometimes I am locked in my room".
Many participants said they have little choice over the types of care and support they receive, and sometimes do not trust the quality of those available. In the Philippines, one group concluded that "current programmes or provisions of the Government are unfit and incompatible or inappropriate for the needs of older persons". Older people should have the right to care and support in the setting of their choosing and from a provider they have picked.
Palliative care remains unknown to many
Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life of a person going through a life-threatening illness. It aims to relieve pain and help patients with any psychological, social or spiritual needs.
Older people often said this concept was completely new to them. Many explained that there were no services of this type in their community, or at least there were none they knew of. In Russia, one group revealed they were unaware of these services and that "everything falls on the shoulders of relatives". And in Moldova, another group said "we didn''t even know such services exist in our country or elsewhere".
For those who knew about palliative care, older people identified high costs, lack of information and medical staff''s negative attitudes as the main barriers in accessing them. Poor quality services and long distances between their home and those services were also mentioned too.
The rights to long-term care and support and palliative care are not clearly articulated in international human rights law anywhere.
Ultimately, we need a convention articulating that older people have the right to these types of care and support without any kind of discrimination. Right now, our Age Demands Action campaigners are out there advocating for these rights. They are using the results of the Freedom to decide for ourselves report to call on governments to listen to what older people in their countries are saying and to attend the Open-ended Working Group in July.
* UN Web TV: July Open-ended Working Group session:
June 2018
The fundamental rights of older people need to be better protected. (EU Fundamental Rights Agency)
Nearly 60% of Europeans consider being old a disadvantage when looking for work. Societies often view older people as burdens. Too often we overlook the basic human rights of our older people. This year, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) in its 2018 Fundamental Rights Report explores how a rights-based approach towards respect for older people is starting to happen.
“Fundamental rights are not just for the young. They protect everyone regardless of age,” says FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty. “We need to do a better job of protecting the older members of our communities. It’s high time to translate political commitments into tangible actions. We must stand up for the civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of older people.”
This year’s Fundamental Rights Report dedicates its focus chapter to equal treatment for older people and respect for their fundamental rights. It recognises growing awareness of the issue and how policies are changing to better respect their rights. However, it advises against a one-size-fits-all approach as barriers faced by women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities may be compounded as they age. It also warns how young people today may face difficulties in later life if their education is poor and they cannot find work.
It underlines the need to broaden protection against discrimination on the grounds of age by adopting the EU’s Equal Treatment Directive that extends anti-discrimination protection beyond employment to access to services, housing and healthcare, etc. It also suggests making better use of EU funds to promote inclusion and equal treatment for older people.
* Access the report via the link below:

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