Going beyond the rhetoric, should access to education be legally protected and addressed as a human right under international law? Education is increasingly highlighted as fundamental to the advancement of societies as well as essential to opportunity for individuals. Both the opportunity but also the right are too frequently unequal and arbitrarily secured. Girls have too often been shortchanged. Poverty and conflict frequently are obstacles as children barely in their teens are compelled to support hungry families or some are forced to become "child soldiers" or "comfort wives." Malala Yousafzai, targeted by the Pakistani Taliban for assassination for promoting education for her generation of young men and women, stands out as a symbol for millions who are denied opportunity and access. What more can be done both in practice and definition by the United Nations and International Community?
Within the UN system, education is promoted as one of the most critical priorities among the UN's "Millennium Goals" established for the first part of this century. However, is this more rhetorical but where adequate resources and protection may be still lagging? In many societies, resources and costs are the most obvious constraint in insuring education for children. However, this obstacle may be complicit with other more overt limitations. In some countries education may be limited implicitly if not explicitly by gender, perhaps race, religion or even citizenship status. As in the case of Malala, children may be targeted by those who associate schools and education with subversive ideas. In other instances, governments may deny resources by diverting funding for other purposes, from military to corruption. Schools may even become pawns in politics and be closed as form of collective punishment.
Upgrading Legal Protections for Education:
Education needs more global resources. However, to what degree does protection of access to education also need to be codified? Defining education as a fundamental human right is a start. United Nations mandated institutions, including the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNICEF and an array of Special Rapporteurs, provide regular reviews on the status and respect for human rights within the borders of any UN member state. Education needs to be on the top of any review agenda.
To what degree is education protected/promoted and can be even more explicitly defined a human right under current and/or future international treaties/conventions? Grave violations of most human rights are incorporated into the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court adopted in 1998, (where I was negotiator, drafter and signatory on behalf of Bosnia & Herzegovina). Since 1998, the Rome Statute has been under constant discussion, review and, on key considerations, has been amended. If state governments, regimes, leaders and/or non-state actors deny access to education and/or persecute students and/or teachers, should any of these actions give rise to prosecution under international law including before the International Criminal Court? Further, should education be protected without discrimination as to race, ethnicity, religion, age, as well as gender.
Education Critical to Economic Well-Being & Functional Democratic & Free Society?
Education is critical to economic welfare and health. It defines societies that progress. As a global community we search for shared values and higher ideals such as tolerance, free societies, democracy and peace; but is this possible without education? Assuming an affirmative obligation to deliver resources needed for education for future global citizens may not be an obligation that states will broadly assume now. However, defining education is a human right that deserves legal protection and may not be denied is a legal concept whose time may have come.
-- Professor Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey
Special Thanks to Prof. David Sanders & Media and Communications School of Montclair StateUniversity.
The goal was to start asking the questions and initiate a debate whose time has come. As Global Citizens, we all have an interest as well as responsibility in the discussion. The "Digital Diplomacy" class at MontclairState University provides perhaps a more immediate perspective to the demands as well as opportunities of education. The "Video Blog" is the "Montclair State University Diplomats'" contribution to the evolving discussion. Today's college students in the US face high costs and other financial sacrifices and potentially longer-term debt in student loans. However, for many students globally, risk to life or other deprivation may be the cost of education. The class compromised of aspiring journalists, filmmakers, and perhaps activists wanted to ask the questions about the future of education globally, more specifically the legal protections to be afforded especially as the United Nations and the rule of law evolve. The Answers are left to the global audience that perhaps will be encouraged to lean forward in addressing education as a human...