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Legal conventions and articles for education in emergencies

4th Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949)

Parties: All states and the conventions are generally accepted as part of customary international law
Duty-bearers: the State; all armed forces operating in the conflict and individuals in these forces;
occupying forces; international community, under UN, Nato or similar.
Rights-holders: Civilians and non-combatants
Relevant articles: Common Article 2 (pertains to international conflicts); Common Article 3 (on internal conflicts); Article 24 and 50 (both concerns children who are orphaned or separated from their families as a result of war have access to education and their education shall, as far as possible, be entrusted to persons of similar cultural tradition).
Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions (1977)
Parties: Some states have not ratified, but the Protocol is nevertheless considered international customary law
Duty-bearers: As above with the 4th Geneva Convention
Rights-holders: This Protocol concerns internal and non-international conflicts and is therefore esp. relevant for IDPs
Relevant article: Article 4.3(a) (affirms the obligation to provide children with the care and aid they require, and the right to receive education).
Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951)
Parties: 144 countries, but may also be considered international customary law
Duty-bearers: State Parties as host states; UNHCR keeping a watching brief; NGOs and other mandated humanitarian assistance providers; 3rd party or private actors commissioned by host state or UN.
Rights-holders: The convention protects refugees across international borders, who have met criteria for refugee status; these criteria are laid out in the convention.
Relevant articles: Article 1 (on the definition of ‘refugee’); Article 3 (non-discrimination); Article 22(1) (refugee children should be accorded the same treatment as is accorded to nationals with respect to elementary education); and Article 22(2) (treatment must no less favourable than that accorded to foreigners with respect to education other than elementary education).
ICESCR - International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)
Parties: 160 States
Duty-bearers: State Parties; international community (for technical and financial assistance); private actors with delegated authority from the State; parents.
Rights-holders: Everyone in a State that is party to the covenant.
Relevant articles: Article 2 (non-discrimination); Article 13 (education); Article 14 (primary education). See also the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR on an individual complaints mechanism.
CRC – Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
Parties: 192 – thus the most widely ratified convention in the world
Duty-bearers: As with ICESCR above
Rights-holders: Children everywhere up until the age of 18
Relevant articles: The CRC has all the provisions necessary for addressing education in emergencies and is therefore arguably the best and most wide-ranging of conventions: Article 2 (non-discrimination); Article 3 (best interest of the child); Article 12 (participation); Article 22 (entitles refugee children to receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance in the enjoyment of applicable rights, i.e. including education); Article 28 (specifies the right to education, notably primary education compulsory and available free to all; but also the development of different forms of secondary education, and to make higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity by every appropriate means, and educational and vocational information and guidance available and accessible); Article 29 (aims of education); Article 30 (minorities); Article 38 (concerns children in armed conflict: to be covered by rules of international humanitarian law applicable to States in armed conflicts which are relevant to the child, including protecting them from taking part in hostilities and being conscripted). See also Optional Protocol 1 to the CRC on child soldiers.
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998)
Parties: 110 countries have ratified or acceded, and a further 38 states have signed but not ratified the treaty. Three of these states (Israel, Sudan, United States) have "unsigned".
Duty-bearers: State Parties; All armed forces; Individuals (acting on their own, or as part of official or rebel forces)
Rights-holders: Civilian/persons or property protected under the provisions of the relevant Geneva Convention.
Relevant articles: 8 (2)(e)(iv) (on intentionally directed attacks against buildings dedicated to education (and many other buildings) provided they are not military objectives).
Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (non-binding) (1998)
Parties: This is a non-binding set of principles, yet they build on international human rights and may be considered as international customary law
Duty-bearers: States; armed forces; International community; mandated humanitarian agencies and NGOs; UNHCR on a watching brief.
Rights-holders: Persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, during emergency, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border.
Relevant article: Principle 4(2) (certain IDPs, such as children, shall be entitled to protection and assistance … that takes into account their special needs); Principle 23 (on education, affirms the right of every human being to education(1), specify that to give effect to this right for internally displaced persons, the authorities concerned shall ensure that persons, in particular displaced children, receive education which shall be free and compulsory at the primary level, and education should respect its recipients’ cultural identity, language and religion(2); that special efforts should be made to ensure the full and equal participation of women and girls in educational programs and education and training facilities shall be made available to internally displaced persons, in particular adolescents and women, whether or not living in camps, as soon as conditions permit (3+4)).
Other relevant UN conventions:
  • UDHR - Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948): art. 2 (non-discrimination), art. 26 (education)
  • ICCPR - International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966): art. 2 (non-discrimination)
  • CEDAW - Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (1979): art. 10 (education)
  • CRDP – Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006): art. 24 (education)
Regional conventions:
  • European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950)
  • OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa (1969)
  • American Convention on Human Rights (1969)
    • Additional Protocol of San Salvador to the American Convention on Human Rights (1988)
  • African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (1981)
  • Cartagena Declaration on Refugees in Central America (1984)
  • African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990)
  • European Social Charter (1961, amended 1996)
  • Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (1998)
  • Arab Charter on Human Rights (2005)
  • African Youth Charter (2006)
  • Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (2009)
Declarations and recommendations
  • UNESCO/ILO Recommendation concerning the status of Teachers (1960)
  • Jomtien Education for All Declaration (1990)
  • Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (1990)
  • Declaration of the Rights and Care of the Child in Islam (1994)
  • The Sphere Project’s Humanitarian Charter (1998/2010)
  • Dakar Framework for Action: Education for All (2000)
  • United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (2009)
Official interpretations: General Comments by the UN system:
General Comments by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child:
    • no.1: The Aims of Education
    • no. 5: General measures
    • no. 6: Treatment of Unaccompanied and Separated Children outside their Country of Origin
    • no. 7: Implementing Child’s Rights in Early Childhood
    • no. 8: The right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment
    • no. 9: The rights of children with disabilities
    • no. 11: Indigenous children and their rights under the Convention
General comments by the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights:
    • no. 3: The nature of state parties obligations
    • no. 9: The domestic application of the Covenant
    • no. 11: The Plans of Action for Primary Education
    • no. 13: The Right to Education
    • no. 16: The Equal Right of men and women to the enjoyment of all Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
    • no. 20: Non-Discrimination in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (art. 2, 2)
    • no. 21: Cultural rights
General Comments by the UN Human Rights Committee / Committee on Civil and Political Rights:
    • no 18: Non-discrimination
    • no 29: Derogations during a State of Emergency
Interpretations and other publications:
  • Erica Harper: International Law and Standards Applicable in Natural Disaster Situations (IDLO, 2009)
  • Right to education in emergency situations - Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education (2008), UN Document A/HRC/8/10
  • Committee of the Rights of the Child (CRC), Recommendations from “Day of General Discussion on The Right of the Child to Education in Emergency Situations” (2008)
  • Guiding Principles for Human Rights Officers Working in Conflict and Post-conflict environment (2008)
  • UNICEF: The Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 3rd revised and updated edition, (2007)
  • ICRC: IDRL Guidelines for the domestic facilitation and regulation of international disaster relief and initial recovery assistance (2007)
  • UNESCO: Education under Attack (2007)
  • Standards in Humanitarian Accountability and Quality Management. Humanitarian Accountability Project (2007)
  • IASC Operational Guidelines on Human Rights in Natural Disasters (2006)
  • Inter-Agency Standing Committee Operational Guidelines on Human Rights and Natural Disasters (2006)
  • Guide to International Human Rights Mechanisms for Internally Displaced Persons and Their Advocates (Brookings-Bern Project) (2006)
  • Women’s Refugee Commission: Right to Education During Displacement. A resource for organizations working with refugees and internally displaced persons (2006)
  • Customary international humanitarian law study: a contribution to the understanding and respect for the rule of law in armed conflict, ICRC, (2005)
  • Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (1998)
  • UNHCR Refugee Children: Guidelines on Protection and Care (1994)
  • The Limberg Principles on the Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1987)
Human Rights Based Approaches:
Global Campaign for Education and ActionAid: Education Rights: A guide for practitioners and activists (2007)
UNESCO/UNICEF: A human rights based approach to Education for All (2007)
Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights: Frequently asked questions on a human rights-based approach to development cooperation (United Nations, 2006)
Tomasevski, Katarina and UNESCO Bangkok: Manual on Rights-based Education (2004)