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Under the international system there are different UN specialised agencies charged with specific mandates. These are normative and standard setting organisations, with less focus on broad implementation on the ground. Their nature as member-driven organisations must be understood, as they can appear somewhat politicised, which may be detrimental to the actual implementation of the conventions as well as to their complaints procedures. UNESCO is the UN agency for education (amongst other themes) and ILO deals with labour issues. Both have conventions which are relevant to the broader understanding and framing of the right to education.

UNESCO has many conventions, two of which are particularly important as standard setters in the field of non-discrimination in education and on technical and vocational training: the Convention against Discrimination in Education and the Convention on Technical and Vocational Education. Both have been important as normative texts, inspiring other conventions and bringing important issues to the fore.

However, both conventions have a comparatively low rate of ratification and neither of them have good oversight mechanisms, with all reporting done behind closed doors in the Committee on Conventions and Recommendations (CR). This, together with the tradition for governments sitting on the CR, rather than independent experts, leaves little room for “naming and shaming” of governments, and make them less useful enforceable international legal instruments. It is difficult to point to cases where the complaints mechanisms have been tested or had any real effect on people or groups whose right to education has been violated. If anyone reading these pages has had any constructive experience with these conventions and the CR, then the RTE Project would be delighted to assist in making this more widely known.

For more information and the text of these two conventions, as well as the CR, please visit UNESCO’s Office of Legal Affairs. Alternatively please visit the extensive pages on UNESCO’s standards and norms in education