Education Q&A with Amnesty International’s Salil Shetty


From an Amnesty International perspective
I would say the biggest dream that we would have for education is to actually make the
right to education a reality for every single child and adult in the world. Because education
is a fundamental human right and it affects every single other right, which is precisely
why if you take the Economic Social Rights Covenant the right to education gets mentioned
twice in two different articles. Whereas for other economic social rights governments have
the option of progressive realization, which means they can do it over time. For the right
to education they have been given only two years to come up with a clear delivery plan
to make sure that compulsory and free education is available to every child of the world. But the reality as we know it is that there’s
more than 250 million children who are out of school who are not really learning much
and you can be sure that these numbers are severely underestimated. Now, if you go to
the underlying reason why this is happening you’d find in most contexts that the fundamental
underlying problem is one of deep discrimination. And that’s really a human rights issue. Whether
it’s discrimination against girls, against minorities, ethnic groups, disabled people,
so multiple forms of discrimination and prejudice. So my dream is that we tackle this discrimination
in a very head on way. Amnesty international has done various studies. You take children
in Afghanistan for example, kids are displaced don’t get access to education. Palestinian
Arab children in Israel don’t have access to education simply because of their anti-dissidents. But it’s not even just in poor countries.
In some of the richest countries, the Czech Republic for example, Roma children are discriminated
and don’t have access to education. So yes, my dream is that every child doesn’t suffer
from discrimination. Every adult who wants lifelong learning is not excluded from education.
Every human being has a right to education. And this is a fundamental right and the world
and the international community and all of us need to work towards that end. There’s no question. In fact the Convention
on the Rights of the Child, which almost every government in the world has signed up to is
clear that human rights, human dignity, human values need to be taught in schools and colleges.
Think of the situation in Syria for example today where we’ve had millions of people who
have lost their lives or displaced, lost their livelihood. Would this of happened if every
individual in Syria had a respect for fairness, for equality, for the other? And if you don’t
have this you might have education but what we’re seeing in the world is increasing numbers
of educated unemployed. What are we going to have in the world tomorrow if every child
and every individual doesn’t respect other people for their intrinsic worth? So yes,
I think there’s a lot of lip service, which is paid. In fact the Convention on the Rights
of the Child insists that this is included. But in reality how many schools and how many
universities and colleges deeply integrate human right education? Amnesty International runs a global program
called Human Rights Friendly Schools where it’s fundamentally integrated into the way
in which the school works. It’s not a matter of just giving a lecture on human rights because
there’s many lectures been given on civic responsibility human rights, but it has to
be internalized, it has to be converted into lived experience. And it’s not in schools
alone but in every household. But absolutely the answer is it must be integrated and it
must be done now. Corruption affects every aspect of human life, it’s very unfortunate.
But if you think about why corruption affects education and affects everything else, the
fundamental problem in most societies, and this is particularly true in emerging and
developing countries, but it’s not exclusively a problem of developing countries but it’s
more prevalent in the poor countries. And the reason why that is the case is because
there is a complete lack of transparency and accountability. So, if you want to tackle
corruption, which is essential for us to make sure that every child has good quality education,
you have to address the issue of transparency and accountability. Without that there is
no way of tackling corruption. If you don’t have rule of law, if you don’t have a human
rights, if you don’t have a system that gives every individual equal access to justice,
you’re not going to have a solution to corruption. And it is a deep disease. It cuts at the very
fundamental roots of quality education and quality social services, particularly for
the poor and the marginalized. So yes corruption is an endemic disease, but it can be tackled
and it must be tackled. So the private sector is obviously a very key actor in the way the
world is developed. They’re becoming much more important than in the past in every domain
of human life, including in education. I was recently in Miramar and Burma and you can
imagine that this is now a new economy, a new country which is just opening up, new
in the sense that it’s new to opening up to the world. And every single corporation in
the world wants to be in Burma and Miramar today. And I’m using this as a concrete example
of what the private sector can do to respect human rights. And this is a good example because
the government there is very weak and you could easily have companies, particularly
who are in the extractive industry looking for mineral going into that country and extracting
the natural resources with little regard for human rights.
But the reality is that you may be able to do that in the short run but effectively what
you’re going to do is to destroy the social fabric of that country. It’s a deeply divided
fractured country. And if you don’t respect human rights in that country, if the people
who are living in the areas where the mineral resources are located don’t feel that they’re
getting a fair share of the wealth you can be sure that there will be a destabilized
Burma and Miramar in the future. So what do we mean by human rights complaint private
sector approach? It’s very simple. There’s no great rocket science about it. What Amnesty
International would say is that there is a set of U.N. agreed human rights standards
which businesses across the world have agreed to. So what we’d expect every single business
to do is to ensure that it is due diligence put in place, but this due diligence is put
in place exante, not after the event but before the event. So before you have any investments
going in, before you have any business activity, every business leader today has to make sure
that they do a check, a test to see what are the human rights implications or consequences
of their investments of their operations. So if you can think through this logically
to it’s end conclusion you can be sure that any potential negative consequences are take
care of, just as you do with a health and safety, just as you do with environmental
damage. Will your actions cause humans rights damage? So at least at a minimum it’s a do
no harm. But ideally businesses should be actually promoting human rights, promoting
the basic values that underlie human rights and I think they have a huge role to play
there.

19 thoughts on “Education Q&A with Amnesty International’s Salil Shetty”

  1. As a Christian, it's encouraging to know that the people in my faith haven't cornered the market on being judgmental. 

  2. education is fine, as long a we aren't talking about indoctrination. often these international programs go in with an intent to right the wrongs for the betterment of the disadvantaged only to shift the tide of dependency. the end result is millions of more ppl regurgitating the same ideologies of rehearsed programming shoved down their neck by their benefactor since childhood. these programs rarely take into account the many cultural/traditional differences of certain areas & usually exacerbate the discrepancies they wished to eliminate. this is done all under the guise of 'human rights', which is really a deep superiority complex

  3. Be careful Salil Shetty. You give someone a good amount of education, it is likely that he will become an atheist. Statistics don't lie. 

  4. Not well read on Myanmar, but he speaks on the topic as if similar situations have not occurred in the past, corporations have had many opportunities to either exploit or help develop a poor nation and every time they leave the people with nothing.

  5. So, AI, why is it that Salil Shetty keeps repeating "right to education" INSTEAD of RIGHT TO FREE EDUCATION???????? THERE IS NO RIGHT TO EDUCATION OTHER THAN THE RIGHT TO FREE EDUCATION. Otherwise it's not a right, but a commodity that you only buy if you have the money, which approximately 40% of the world population don't have. Education should be a basic human right, hence, it should be free from elementary to University, and funded by a  heavy universal taxing on banks and every single penny in the world created by COMPOUND INTEREST, which is the unproductive sector of the world economy. With this taxing model not only education could be free in all its levels, but also health care. Just think for a second all the fictitious money created in the world every single day by COMPOUND INTEREST!!!! Tax it with a 25% (we are talking about trillions annually) and education and health care would be free for all in the entire world, which is the only way forward if we want equal opportunities and a leveled field for all. So AI, you need to improve a lot your proposals, Just saying "right to education" means absolutely nothing.

  6. PLEASE, dislike this asshole, because he doesn't support FREE EDUCATION FOR ALL. He wants education for profits. Hes saying it, by eliminating the "FREE" part of the equation. See, if you want to make education a basic human right, YOU HAVE TO MAKE IT FREE FOR ALL, OTHERWISE IT'S NOT A HUMAN RIGHT BUT ONE MORE COMMODITY. Religious groups are the most benefited by the commoditization of education.

  7. Awesome to see baseless,self-righteous discrimination is alive and well in the comments section.Well done to all you prejudiced MFs *8)

  8. Life = Education. Just by being alive you get an education, you want professional education from another person? That isn't a human right. A human right be a matter of not being denied education of your choice by any other reason than not being accepted by that institution.

    Human/naturals come from the self, not services of others. They are rights in which people can't TAKE or DENY to you. Life, liberty and property: the government violates 2 of those pretty severely while life is excused by war or farce of our justice system.

  9. Roma childrens in the Czech republic in fact have access to education and it is mandatory for them as well as for the rest of the children. The other thing is that theirs parents does not care and let their children do whatever they want to, including skipping the school.

  10. yes, everyone should have a shot at lifelong learning. Then, schools can continue to over charge students so they can go into debt, so the government can work its control on these students. 

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