A common goods approach to education; lessons from the Social Forum.

A “common good” approach: Key idea at the 2021 UN Social Forum

Every year, the Human Rights Council opens a dialogue called the Social Forum in which the Civil Society participates alongside UN member states to discuss challenges faced by the international community. This year’s Social Forum took place on October 11 and 12th theming around “good practices, success stories, lessons learned and challenges in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, with a special focus on international cooperation and solidarity from a human rights perspective”. This dialogue is special in the sense that it places the civil society at the same level of importance as Member States, so any representative of non-governmental organizations or human rights institutions is welcome to add to the debate.

During the sessions, we were able to hear the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, talk about the disruption of education caused by the pandemic and its effects on the most vulnerable. Moreover, she pointed out the lack of internet access and the increased inequality threats that it possesses to the underdeveloped world, especially for girls´ right to education. For Bachelet, only a common goods approach based on uniting solidarity and collective action could help reduce inequalities in education and fulfill key target goals in the Agenda 2030.

A common goods approach would allow key stakeholders like non-public schools, civil society, communities, and parents to get involved in children’s curricula. We have seen how during the worst days of the Covid-19 crisis when governmental authorities were overtaken, it was mainly the parents, who in collaboration with schools ensured its children’s right to education. Keeping this in mind, it would only make sense to ensure that parents are included in the decision-making process relating to their children’s education. Ignasi Grau, general director of OIDEL, was responsible for reminding these key ideas at the Social Forum and prompting governmental and non-governmental actors to overcome tensions and adopt the common good approach to education. The Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes that “Parents (…) have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child”, and under that basis, the world needs to regard parents as an essential part to ensure the full protection of children’s rights.

The common goods approach was demanded in all areas during the Social Forum which included access to Covid-19 vaccination, awareness of inequalities of internet access, economic and social crisis recuperation or access to living resources.