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Taking your case to the treaty bodies and committees

The international route should only be pursued if the domestic route is not available or has been exhausted. Having said this, the international route can help to highlight and document the human-rights situation domestically and is therefore useful in creating pressure at national level. While the majority of international fora are Committees rather than courts, their views and opinions have political and moral value and can be an effective lobbying tool, even if they are not legally binding.

Usually, anyone can bring a complaint to an international body, as long as they live in a state that has ratified the treaty, that has recognised the competence of the related Committee to deal with complaints, and that has not lodged any reservations that prevent the Committee from considering the particular case.

There are two main types of international bodies which may hear a case related to the violation of the right to education: those established by the UN Charter and those established by human rights treaties. There are also two political routes: through the Human Rights Council and the Commission on the Status of Women, which focus on systemic violations and cases that may be brought against any country in the world. A third option is represented by the World Bank and the IMF’s inspection panels.

Each type of complaint will have its own process to follow. For example the three UN Treaty Bodies which accept individual complaints, CEDAW, ICERD and ICCPR, have the following two to three year process:

- Submission of a complaint to the UN Secretary-General, who brings it to the attention of the relevant Treaty Body.

- The body registers and examines the complaint, considering whether it admissible, and whether there has been a violation.

- The State is then required to respond and the complainant (the person or body that submitted the complaint) can reply to the State’s response.

- The body then issues its views. If a violation is found, the State will be expected to provide compensation and/or change the law.

- There is no appeal process.

The process of preparing a case is very similar to that of a domestic case, and the relevant law and case reference documents should be examined carefully.

The laws that relate to the right to education vary from country to country. This is because each country has ratified different international treaties and has different constitutions and education laws. Click on the country in which a violation to the right to education may be taking place to see what law exists within that country to protect and fulfill the right to education. In our country database (see the main navigation bar above) you can find out which treaties your country has signed up to, if they have any reservations that become relevant in case of a complaint, and also what kind of reports and observations has been made about your country, enabling you better to assess which route to take.

Alternatively, on the following pages you can find information on what each of the treaties entails: their Committees, the relevant provisions, interpretations, government reporting and ratifications. 

Convention on the Rights of the Child

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination

Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and members of their Families

UNESCO Conventions 

International Labour Organisation Conventions


For more information please also visit the pages of the highly useful database.