RFK Center at United Nations First Forum on Minority Issues - Minorities and Right to Education
United Nations First Forum on Minority Issues - Minorities and Right to Education
Palais des Nations - Geneva 15 December 2008, Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights Report, Statement by Marselha Gonçalves Margerin, Advocacy Director
On behalf of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center) I would like to thank the UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Gay MacDougall and her colleagues of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights for the initiative in realizing this first UN Forum on Minority Issues with focus on minorities and Right to Education.
I appreciate indeed the opportunity to make a brief presentation introducing the RFK Center Report on the state of Right to Education of Afro-descendant and Indigenous Peoples in the Americas and make some comments based on the Forum Draft Recommendations.
Formerly known as RFK Memorial, the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights has been advocating for social justice as per former U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy ideals. Every year a human rights defender is awarded with the RFK Human Rights Award and the Center starts a partnership with that defenders. RFK Center has 38 human rights laureates from 22 countries.
RFK Center has partnered with its laureates from Guatemala, Colombia and Dominican Republic to present a comprehensive, multi-national report on the state of the right to education in the Americas that was originally prepared for a thematic hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. (www.rfkcenter.org)
To craft such report, the RFK Center also worked together with other grassroots advocates as well as researchers from international human rights law clinics at Cornell Law School and the University of Virginia School of Law.
The information presented at the report was based on interviews with affected populations, community representatives and government officials in Guatemala, Colombia and Dominican Republic which were conducted over the past year and a half. Providing these country overviews represent only three examples of a larger regional problem pervasive throughout the Americas, it was not meant to reflect any bias against any particular country or countries.
The report examines countries national, regional and international obligations through a methodology that intersects the analyses of structural, process and outcome indicators and the Four-As Framework.
The findings in our report point that structural discrimination against migrant workers and their families, ethnic minorities and IDP population in which most cases are Afro-descendants, and against indigenous communities are not being effectively addressed by States and are depriving them of the most basic access that the right to education binds states to provide. E.g:
This brief summary of the report leads me to believe that the implementations of effective affirmative action policies to address structure discrimination that impacts access to quality education is an Essential Requirement for an Effective Education Strategy. Also, Report findings are related to denial of identity documents that prevents children from attending and completing school I would suggest adding to the recommendations that the lack of identity documents should not prevent school enrollment and accomplishment.
Comments on Draft Recommendations
"Education plays a formative role in socialization for democratic citizenship and represents an essential support for community identity. It is also a primary means by which individuals and communities can sustainably lift themselves out of poverty."
II. Core principles
"The right to education for all is grounded in universal and regional human rights instruments including instruments on minority rights and the rights of indigenous peoples. The core principles of international human rights are fully applicable to the right to education and should be faithfully implemented by States. These include the principles of equality and non-discrimination."
III. Essential requirements for an effective education strategy
IV. Equal Access to Quality Education for Minorities
"Authorities should remove direct institutional barriers to educational access for minorities, and address cultural and linguistic barriers that may have equivalent access-denying effects."
"Difficulties in school enrollment for displaced persons, migrant workers and their children or members of nomadic or semi-nomadic groups should be addressed in an active and constructive manner. Lack of documentation should not prevent school enrollment.