13.12.2011 - Education Sector

UNESCO leads a landmark anti-bullying initiative

© L. Malmedie- Participants at the Rio Consultation on Homophobic Bullying and Education for All

On the eve of the celebration of the tenth occasion of Human Rights Day, 10 December 2011, UNESCO convened the United Nations’ first-ever international consultation to address bullying against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex (LGBTI) students in educational institutions. The landmark event, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 5-9 December 2011, brought together experts from UN agencies, NGOs, ministries of education and academia from more than 25 countries around the world.

Every day, students around the world are routinely denied the basic, universal human right to education because of discrimination and violence they experience in school on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity.

The consultation was organized to explore methods for ensuring all people receive a quality education.  Experts took an integrative approach to the issue, examining the connections between homophobic bullying, development goals and human rights. The consultation was widely welcomed by participants for providing a forum to consider a wide range of situations, experiences and approaches from around the world, and for sharing new ideas, tools and good policies and practices from diverse settings. 

All participants of the consultation agreed on a statement that calls upon governments to eliminate the unacceptable and devastating prevalence of LGBTI bullying in educational institutions and settings around the world.

An expert from an African NGO said, “The meeting will be particularly important in developing a coordinated multi-partner approach to addressing homophobia in the school environments of [our] country.” Another NGO representative praised the consultation for the opportunity “to hear about the experiences of different organisations, [which can] help avoid some of the problems and obstacles others have already dealt with.

The consultation underscored the need for strengthened evidence to develop a “solid foundation when approaching schools and policy-makers,” a Chinese NGO official noted. To this end, participants called for continued international and regional collaboration, and for UNESCO to strengthen and develop its leadership role in support of advocacy efforts at all levels.

Examples of good policy and practice from around the world will be published by UNESCO in 2012 to share and expand on the outcomes of the consultation. This consultation is the first event within an ongoing process through which UNESCO, in partnership with others, is seeking to ensure safe, secure and inclusive learning environments for all.

Related links:

Rio Statement on Homophobic Bullying and Education for All

Rio Consultation Participants

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon: Statement on ending violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

UN 'Stop Bullying' webcast

Universal Declaration of Human Rights




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