The Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children and Youth through Education

The 2019 Social Forum took place on the 1stand on the 2ndOctober 2019 in room XX, at Palais des Nations in Geneva. The Social Forum is an annual meeting convened by the Human Rights Council to provide a unique space for an open and interactive dialogue between all stakeholders on a specific theme chosen each year. In accordance with the resolution 38/17 of the Human Right Council this year’s Social Forum focused on“the promotion and protection of the rights of children and youth through education”.

Though all children and young people have equal rights to quality education, they often lack access to education or are on the margins of the educational system. In fact, today 617 million children and adolescents do not reach the minimum levels of competence and cannot enjoy the opportunities education generates. This is mainly due to poverty, inequality, discrimination, and marginalization. Other factors such as ignorance, health problems, religion, situation of conflict, disasters caused by climate change, and internal displacement contribute to the high rates of school drop-out.

Education is a powerful means to break the cycles of exclusion and is an essential element for the overall achievement of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. SDG 4 emphasized the need to guarantee quality education and lifelong learning to all so that no one is left behind. Thus, the 2019 Social Forum theme was a fitting reminder that to celebrate the 30thanniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child it is vital to continue the dialogue among States and Civil Society actors on how best to promote and protect the rights of children and youth through education.

IIMA and VIDES, as NGOs with ECOSOC Consultative Status committed to the promotion of the right to education especially of the most vulnerable and marginalized children and youth, were invited by the OHCHR Social Forum organizers’ to share one of their experiences on how human rights education for youth and by youth is implemented in their local educational settings.

Guillermo Gutierrez Mercado, a representative of IIMA and VIDES Uruguay, shared his experience as a young man and as an educator in formal and informal education settings. He presented a human rights program carried out with people deprived of liberty (most of them under thirty years of age) in a prison of Uruguay.The aim of the program was to make young detainees aware of their rights as well as establish a wide range of interventions so as to promote and protect the human rights of those in critical socio-economic contexts specifically targeting children and youth. Additionally, he shared his experience with the voluntary program “Aprendizaje-Servicio”, carried out with his students in Montevideo. Through this program, young people were empowered to be protagonists and agents of transformation. It created a sense of community as the meetings of youth communities fostered the greater acceptance of differences, respect and a culture of peace and justice.  Indeed, as Guillermo highlighted, human rights education guarantees a better coexistence for all. The importance of human rights education especially for those who are excluded or in situations of vulnerability cannot be underestimated. It is an essential tool for reducing social fragmentation and exclusion. That is why a lifelong education on human rights is needed because it helps every child and every young person to know their rights and those of others so that together they realize their potential, be reciprocally empowered, and enjoy their human rights to the fullest to build a world of peace, justice, and solidarity.