UNESCO’s programme adopted in 1951 included, “the measures for respecting the right to free and compulsory education in the spirit of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.
In so doing, UNESCO establishes the fundamental right of equality in opportunity for the children of the world. It is just and necessary that all children of the world should have the right to equal opportunity […]. This ideal led UNESCO to undertake a campaign for compulsory education. (Jean Debiesse, “The right to free and compulsory education”, UNESCO Courier, July-August 1951 p. 14).
Throughout its sixty years of existence, UNESCO has constantly helped its Member States to identify their needs and aspirations in the field of education through consultations, surveys and international and regional conferences. In doing so, UNESCO has been guided by Member States countries while promoting principles of equity, human dignity, respect for human rights and international understanding.
UNESCO constantly seeks to mobilize the political will of the international community on behalf of two great educational causes; the right to education and the role of education in building a more caring world. The task of developing and improving education rests essentially with governments. UNESCO acts as a stimulus and catalyst, analysing trends, defining policies, setting standards, formulating key ideas, encouraging innovation and organizing exchanges of information, ideas and people.
UNESCO advocates for the right to education for all through four main programme areas:
- Monitoring its implementation;
- Building and strengthening capacities and mechanisms and reporting;
- Assisting Member states in reviewing and developing their national legal frameworks;
- Mobilising, developing and fostering global partnerships to raise awareness on key issues relating to its implementation.