MAY 10, 2019 - Roundtable Discussion on the Implementation of the Abidjan Principles on State obligations regarding private actors in education

Roundtable Discussion on the Implementation of the Abidjan Principles on State obligations regarding private actors in education

Friday, May 10, 2019
1 to 3 p.m.
Social Sciences Building | FSS4006
(120 University Private, uOttawa)

All are welcome.
For more information about the event, contact
Sarah French at


The last two decades have seen a significant increase in the scale and scope of non-state actors in education at the primary and secondary levels in developing countries. These changes are rapidly transforming education systems. One example is the involvement of private investors, including multinational companies, in establishing education services at purportedly ‘low cost’ for poorer people. Several UN reports, resolutions and recommendations, and observations from the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights have raised major concerns about the impact of the rapid growth of fee-paying private schools. Concerns include educational content, quality, segregation and social inequalities. If not monitored and regulated adequately, this movement could constitute a major challenge for the realisation of the right to education and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 and undermine important progress achieved in previous years. 

A number of critical questions in this context are raised: Under which circumstances is the involvement of the private sector in education acceptable? Under which circumstances can it undermine human rights? What mechanisms must the State have in place to ensure that learners’ and families’ right to education is adequately protected? 

To that end there is a need for a consensus-based international understanding of the framework against which to make this assessment. While international human rights law has the potential to fill in this gap, the existing legal framework needs to be clarified and consolidated to facilitate its use as an effective regulatory, advocacy and policy tool.

Since 2015 education stakeholders have been working to develop human rights Guiding Principles on the obligations of States to provide public education and to regulate private involvement in education (now known as the ‘Abidjan Principles’). In February 2019, experts convened at a conference in Côte D’Ivoire and adopted the Abidjan Principles after a four-year consultative process. This landmark text unpacks existing law on the right to education, providing a new reference point to address the role of the State and private actors in education.

These principles are intended to be operational in, and adaptable to, different contexts and aim to provide a basis for policy work and serve as a concrete tool that States and other stakeholders can use. The roundtable discussion is part of a series of events taking place to raise awareness about the Abidjan Principles and looking at how these can be an effective tool within education circles in Canada.



  • Professor John Packer, Director, Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa 


  • Sarah French, Campaigner, Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: set out the development of the Abidjan Principles
  • Dr. Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, Senior Research Associate, UNRISD, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development and former UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights: on the content of the Abidjan Principles and the avenues for implementation
  • Dr. Prachi Srivastava, Associate Professor (Education & International Development), Chair, Critical Policy, Equity and Leadership Studies ARC, Faculty of Education, University of Western Ontario and Adjunct Professor, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa: on the application of the Abidjan Principles and implications for private sector engagement
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