Populists Using COVID-19 as Pretext to Clamp Down on Rights of Migrants, Silence Women’s Free Expression, Third Committee Experts Stress as Dialogues Continue
States Forging ‘Deliberately Ambiguous’ Security Cooperation Accords to Justify Enforced Disappearance, Committee Chair Warns
Impediments to freedom of expression for women, discrimination against migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic and an uptick in enforced disappearances were among the concerns addressed by human rights experts in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as delegates raised questions about how better to protect vulnerable communities during interactive dialogues.
“Sexism and misogyny, which are dominant factors in gendered censorship, have been accentuated by the rise of populist, authoritarian and fundamentalist forces around the world,” cautioned Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, as she delineated the multiple ways — from law and public policy to cultural norms and a deeply embedded patriarchy — that women and girls are denied their right to voice their opinions freely.
Sexual and gender-based violence, hate speech and disinformation can have a chilling effect on — even kill — free expression for women entirely, she continued, noting that some States deliberately prevent women’s access to information on reproductive and sexual rights and health. Some States also add restrictions under the pretext of morality. “Laws on public morals should not be weaponized by States to inhibit women’s cultural, gender and sexual expression and academic freedom, or to restrict feminist discourse,” she affirmed.
In the ensuing dialogue, delegates highlighted domestic advances, with the United Kingdom’s representative outlining new online safety laws that represent “a new era of responsibility” for technology companies. Ukraine’s delegate, meanwhile, noted that in Crimea, the Russian Federation prosecutes dissenting views and places harsh restrictions on freedom of the press and the Internet.
The Committee also heard from two experts on enforced disappearances. Luciano Hazan, Chair of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, highlighted new forms of that heinous practice, with States using cross-border migration to capture individuals through “covert extra-terrestrial operations” — cloaking their actions under bilateral agreements that use “deliberately ambiguous” terms, citing the need to fight transnational crime and terrorism. Villa Quintana, Chair of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, described the plight of victims and their families, calling for the promotion of victim-centred policies in order for justice to be served.
During the interactive dialogue that followed, Cyprus’s delegate noted that families are still awaiting answers about relatives who went missing after Turkey’s invasion of the island in 1974. The representative of Myanmar, meanwhile, spoke of those enforced disappearances carried out after the military coup earlier in 2021. With over 9,000 people arrested, he noted that “the military grows fear in the people’s hearts”.
Later in the day, the focus shifted towards migrant rights, with Felipe Morales, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, noting that this vulnerable group has become a convenient scapegoat in some countries, as Governments use public health concerns as a cover to ramp up immigration enforcement. “Emergency responses and polarized narratives have fueled health fears and constructed perceptions exacerbating discrimination, racism, xenophobia and stigmatization,” he said.
In the subsequent dialogue, delegates highlighted the positive role played by migrants during the pandemic, with Mexico’s delegate calling them the “hidden heroes” for standing strong in frontline jobs during a time of crisis.
Also briefing the Committee were the Chair of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and the Special Rapporteur on the right to education.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 19 October to continue its consideration of human rights.
Interactive Dialogues — Freedom of Opinion, Expression
IRENE KHAN, Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, presenting her report, noted it was the first in the 27-year history of the mandate that deals exclusively with the issue of gender equality and freedom of opinion and expression. The world watched in horror as the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan crushed the voices and hopes of women and girls — from high school students to women journalists, artists, judges and human rights activists. Gender equality and freedom of expression remains a distant goal.
In the digital age, she said the Internet has become the new battleground in the struggle for women’s rights, amplifying opportunities for women to express themselves, while also multiplying the possibilities for suppression and surveillance. Stressing that gendered censorship is pervasive, online and offline, she said women’s voices are suppressed, controlled or punished — explicitly by laws, policies and discriminatory practices and implicitly by social attitudes, cultural norms and patriarchal values. “Sexism and misogyny, which are dominant factors in gendered censorship, have been accentuated by the rise of populist, authoritarian and fundamentalist forces around the world,” she warned. In a number of countries, women’s expressions — especially content related to gender identity and sexual expressions — are closely monitored, censored and criminalized, often with the excuse of protecting “public morale”.
The most extreme form of gendered censorship is the use of sexual and gender-based violence, hate speech and disinformation to chill or kill women’s expression, she said. In many cases, online threats escalate to physical violence and even murder. Women’s rights groups and feminist movements have also come under pressure, as authoritarian regimes seek to restrict civic space. In some countries, State and regressive private actors deliberately block women’s access to gender-related information, including information on reproductive and sexual rights and health. Instead, States should adopt specific legislation, grounded in international human rights standards, to prohibit, investigate and prosecute online gender-based violence and ensure their effective implementation.
She went on to stress that the killing and attacks on women journalists violate their human rights, and also society’s right to information from a diverse media. She urged States to adopt robust and comprehensive measures, in consultation with women journalists and media outlets, to prevent, protect, and monitor and account for the online and offline safety of female journalists. Further, efforts to end online gender-based violence, gendered hate speech and disinformation should not be used as a pretext by States to restrict freedom of expression beyond what is permitted under international law, she cautioned, noting that “laws on public morals should not be weaponized by States to inhibit women’s cultural, gender and sexual expression and academic freedom, or to restrict feminist discourse”.
It is high time to promote a gender-sensitive interpretation of international law on freedom of expression, she said. The United Nations human rights system must explicitly acknowledge that advocacy of gender-based hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence is prohibited under international law, she said, underscoring that misogyny should be banned if it reaches the threshold set for prohibition of hate speech under international law.
When the floor opened for comments and questions, delegates asked about actions to bolster women’s freedom of expression, with the representative of Mexico asking the Special Rapporteur to outline the best State practices to enable safe digital spaces that are free from violence against women. The representative of the Netherlands, associating with the European Union, asked what States can do to counter negative stereotypes on and offline, while at the same time respecting media freedom of expression. The representative of the United Kingdom, noting that his country’s new online safety laws will usher in “a new era of responsibility” for technology companies, asked about the best actions States and private companies can take to protect and promote the work of female journalists.
In a similar vein, the representative of Lithuania, speaking on behalf of Nordic Baltic countries, asked about steps the United Nations can take to decrease violence online and offline for all journalists, while the representative of Bangladesh asked how to protect women and girls from harassment in online platforms, especially journalists. The representative of the United States asked the Special Rapporteur how the international community can elevate the voices of women and girls in the United Nations and other multilateral fora.
Several delegates spoke about national contexts, with the representative of Ukraine describing an alarming situation, related to free expression, in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. In Crimea, the Russian Federation has restricted freedom of the press and the Internet, commits violence against journalists and subjects dissenting voices to prosecution. The representative of Morocco said her country strengthened the freedom of expression through the establishment of a National Press Council in 2016, while in 2019, it developed a journalistic code of ethics that gives rise to free and responsible journalism. The representative of China said that its citizens have the right to freedom of expression, however this right is not absolute; it must not jeopardize the national interest.
Also speaking were representatives of Poland, Ireland, Pakistan, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Austria, India and Algeria, as well as an observer for the European Union.
Ms. KHAN, responding, said her report is part of a multi-year project to advise Governments on ways to improve gender equality as related to freedom of expression.
As for making online spaces safe, she said Governments and private companies have a responsibility in this regard. Online violence against women requires a clear definition so that it does not undermine free speech. For Governments, laws must be made. There should be non-legal measures and social support provided to victims. Companies also must do “a lot more” to ensure online safety, including through the introduction of tools and policies. They should take a human rights-based approach in their work, identifying and mitigating risks to women’s safety. Furthermore, women should always be involved in decisions about online safety that impact them.
She said it is vital that States adopt integrated measures to prevent violence against women journalists, and insist that their officials condemn any related attacks. They should ensure that women are represented in all their diversity and intersectionality. Women are not a homogenous group and they all need to be heard clearly, she added.
VILLA QUINTANA, Chair of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, said it is tragic that the practice of enforced disappearances continues in the twenty-first century. There are no words to reflect the daily suffering of the victims, she stressed, noting that families continue to seek their loved ones and call for cases to be investigated. Combatting enforced disappearances has always been extremely difficult and the participation of State actors, civil societies or human rights institutions is crucial.
Calling for the promotion of victim-centred policies, she said that despite COVID-19, the Committee was the first treaty body to hold an online session and carry out discussion with a State party, Iraq. The Committee focuses its efforts on coordinating, she said, expressing concern about the low level of ratification of the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. This situation is serious for an obvious reason: without ratification, little to nothing can be done by the Committee, even though it has reports at its disposal. Without ratification, victims and society will not have access to the mechanisms which States have created to support them. The Convention is relevant to every State, as it contains principles related to finding people, investigating their disappearance and providing reparations. It also provides tools to prevent enforced disappearances and promote cooperation among State parties, she added.
LUCIANO HAZAN, Chair of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, presenting that body’s report (document A/75/315) said its members have worked tirelessly to help thousands of families of disappeared persons. While there is great understanding about this atrocious crime and about the Working Group’s efforts to defend individuals concerned, the practice persists and is evolving. There are new, alarming trends which pose considerable challenges, he warned, pointing to the 651 new cases of enforced disappearances cited in the annual report. And although the number is high, it does not reflect the scope of enforces disappearances worldwide, he said, pointing to the devastating impact suffered by families seeking the whereabouts of their loved ones.
Describing the new forms of enforced disappearances, he said States now use cross-border migration to capture individuals within or outside their own country, defying national legislation and international law. These cases take place in the context of regular expulsion procedures — or in tandem with them — through covert extra-terrestrial operations. Most of these cases do not comply with the obligation of non-refoulement, as enshrined in Article 8 of the Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Instead, many States have signed bilateral security cooperation agreements that contain vague terminology related to combatting terrorism and transnational crime. These accords are “deliberately ambiguous,” allowing for the expulsion or arrest of any individual deemed to be a security risk for countries that are parties to these agreements. This facilitates abuse, undermining the rule of law and general trust in authorities, he asserted, calling on States to end these practices.
When the floor opened for questions and comments, an observer for the European Union welcomed the Working Group’s efforts, noting that for more than 40 years, nearly 60,000 cases were brought to the attention of States. He strongly condemned acts of intimidation, threats and violence against human rights defenders, and encouraged States to respond positively to the Working Group’s requests for visits.
Several delegates detailed national efforts. The representative of Argentina highlighted her country’s work to universalize the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance — a key instrument for combatting impunity and ensuring justice and truth. She also pointed to Argentina’s involvement in a campaign to ensure greater ratification of the Convention. The representative of France, associating with the European Union, encouraged States to sign and ratify the Convention and recognize the Committee’s competence to receive communication from individuals and States. He also called on States to respond favourably to the Working Group’s urgent appeals and visit requests.
Meanwhile, the representative of Ukraine drew attention to the situation in the temporarily occupied territory of his country and the people who are considered missing, including 67 servicemen. At least 24 more people have become victims of enforced disappearance in temporarily occupied Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. Expressing concern that crimes committed by the Russian Federation during its occupation of the area have not been investigated, he said alarming developments are further reflected in the Secretary-General’s report on the situation of the temporarily occupied Crimea.
The representative of Pakistan meanwhile stressed that enforced disappearance is a reality of the seven-decade Kashmir conflict. Voicing grave concern about enforced disappearances, torture, custodial killings, rape and extrajudicial killings, she said thousands of unmarked graves of such victims have surfaced in recent years. Investigations held so far conclude that these victims were forcibly disappeared by occupation forces, and then tortured to death or summarily executed. The occupying power continues to deny responsibility for 8,000 people forcibly disappeared from the occupied territory, and is reluctant to carry out a forensic investigation into the 7,000 unmarked mass graves.
In addition, several delegates addressed the issue of enforced disappearances within their national borders and enacted against their citizens. The representative of Myanmar said that, following the military coup, enforced disappearances have been carried out by the military and its security forces, with arrests numbering more than 9,000 people, he said, underscoring that “the military grows fear in the people’s hearts”. He asked how the Special Rapporteur would advise the international community to protect the rights of those arrested victims in Myanmar. The representative of Cyprus, associating with the European Union, said the families of those who are missing as a result of Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974 are still awaiting answers. The fate of more than 50 per cent of the missing persons has not been ascertained, she said. She asked the Special Rapporteur how impunity can be addressed in assisting families in getting answers.
The representative of Mexico said the Government has extended an invitation for the Committee to visit his country in November, underscoring Mexico’s commitment to investigate perpetrators of these crimes and to provide reparations to victims. The representative of Japan said that abductions of his country’s nationals by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a matter of national sovereignty and safety for its citizens. The families of victims are now advanced in age, he said, noting that several parents have passed away in recent years. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea promised to hold thorough investigations on all Japanese nationals in this regard, he said, urging that country to implement this pledge immediately. The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected allegations by his counterpart from Japan, noting that the so-called abduction issue has been resolved. The representative of the United States asked how Member States can improve their capacity to respond quickly and transparently to reports of enforced disappearances.
Striking a different tone, the representative of the Russian Federation said the Working Group does not bother to verify the information it receives on alleged disappearances, often deviating from established requirements and accepting comments from claimants or their representatives, even when they only contain personal opinions or accusations from unnamed persons. In addition, it investigates events from “the middle of the century” and places that were not under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation at that time.
Also taking part in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Mexico, Croatia, China, India and Morocco.
Ms. QUINTANA, in response, said efforts to fight impunity are fundamental, underscoring the need for national legislation to describe the crime of enforced disappearances. Stressing the importance of administrative measures that enable States to hold registers and work with transparency when making interventions, she recalled Articles 17 and 18 of the Convention.
Another important element is cooperation among States, she said, notably related to judicial assistance. The 38 initial reports currently before the Committee reveal the practices and lessons learned related to truth, justice, reparations and guarantees against the recurrence of crimes. She called on States to consider the importance of prevention, adopt measures to fight impunity and ensure that cases where the perpetrators both have — and have not — been identified are transparently investigated. She also highlighted the importance of cooperation with the families of victims of forced disappearance in carrying out these measures.
Mr. HAZAN, responding to comments and questions, said the campaign launched by France and Argentina to harmonize ratification of the Convention is important and he urged other countries to support these efforts. On the issue of cooperation among States, he urged States to work to end enforced disappearances, rather than cooperate to produce them, pointing out that the Convention itself has important articles that relate to international cooperation.
As for victim support, he noted that, while the Working Group has always dealt with vulnerable people, the COVID-19 pandemic has made vulnerability even worse. He underscored the need for those States in a position to provide financial assistance to the families of victims and organizations that support them to do so. To questions related to gender and intersectionality, he said the Working Group produces a special report on enforced disappearances of women and girls. Women are forced to look for the disappeared and have suffered as victims themselves in the search process, he explained.
He expressed concern over criticisms by the representatives of China and the Russian Federation, stressing that the Working Group deals with individual cases on the basis of humanitarian rules, working methods and good faith. He disputed insinuations that it is part of a political programme against certain States, emphasizing that it has the highest levels of independence and impartiality, and pointing to its own composition, with five members from five regions. It always works on behalf of the victims of enforced disappearances, he assured.
Rights of Migrants
FELIPE GONZÁLEZ MORALES, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, said his report (document A/76/257) was prepared one and a half years after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and provides analysis on its impact on the human rights of migrants. It also takes stock of the measures and responses put in place to address the fulfilment of migrants’ human rights and promote an inclusive recovery process. Noting that a questionnaire sent to Member States, United Nations entities and others found that the pandemic “has led to both xenophobic reactions and demonstrations of solidarity around the world”, he said migrants and their families have been disproportionally affected, due to their low socioeconomic status, common employment in the informal economy and lack of adequate protection measures.
Pointing out that many migrants, including migrant women, provide a key contribution to local economies and play a critical role in essential sectors — such as health and personal care, food processing and transport — he said these sectors can also be deeply precarious, marked by unsafe working conditions, a lack of social protections, the withdrawal of wages and discrimination. In some countries, migrants were stranded during lockdowns and border closures, sometimes forced to return to their countries of origin. Some States also have used public health concerns to justify immigration enforcement, rounding up, arresting and detaining migrants in overcrowded facilities. “Emergency responses and polarized narratives have fuelled health fears and constructed perceptions exacerbating discrimination, racism, xenophobia and stigmatization,” he said, citing media reports that seek to scapegoat migrants as COVID-19 carriers. Despite such challenges, some States automatically extended visas and work or residence permits to migrants. Other Governments indicated that migrants enjoy the same access to health care as their national population, and still others provided free and voluntary vaccination, regardless of migration status. Several countries have taken steps to contain the spread of COVID-19 by releasing migrant detainees, avoiding new placements in detention centres and improving hygiene, health and security standards. He said Latin American and Caribbean countries of destination, in particular, are promoting integration of refugees and migrants in the context of the Quito Process on the Human Mobility of Venezuelan Nationals in the Region and the Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela. Some Governments and other actors have also developed campaigns and initiatives to improve narratives about migrants and fight discrimination, xenophobia and racism, he added.
When the floor opened for comments and questions, several delegates took the opportunity to underscore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on migrants, with the representative of Luxembourg noting that in certain areas, quarantine orders have discriminated against them. They have also faced a lack of true access to COVID-19 vaccines and he asked the Special Rapporteur how he works with Member States that distinguish between regular and irregular migrants, particularly concerning the right to health. The representative of Qatar said his country provides COVID-19 vaccinations and tests to everyone, including migrant workers. It also ensures that migrant workers in quarantine or receiving treatment receive a salary, irrespective of their entitlement to sick leave.
The representative of Mexico called migrants the “hidden heroes” of the pandemic. It was thought that remittances would fall by 20 per cent, however they fell only 2 per cent, as migrants had to continue working in their essential jobs during the pandemic. In a similar vein, the representative of the Philippines said seafarers were stranded on vessels for months, increasing cases of suicide. She stressed the importance of enacting firewalls between immigration and social services, and asked the Special Rapporteur for positive examples of firewall use. The representative of Bangladesh expressed concern about the exclusion of migrants from national health systems and access to COVID-19 vaccines, and asked how the global community could ensure access. Meanwhile, the representative of the Russian Federation recalled that State restrictions on migrant rights due to COVID-19 are exceptional and temporary in nature.
The representative of Colombia, on the issue of Venezuelan migrants, said his country has enacted measures in solidarity — as well as because of the principle for the non-return for refugees. Striking a different tone, the representative of Hungary said that migration is not a fundamental human right and that States have an obligation to control their borders, deciding who to allow into their territory, subject to international law. Since the outbreak of the immigration crisis in 2015, Hungary has focused on the root causes of migration in countries of origin.
Also participating in the dialogue were representatives of Greece, Chile, Brazil, Poland, Egypt, Malaysia, Cuba, Cyprus, Switzerland, Iran, United States, China, Morocco, Eritrea, Venezuela, Algeria, Ethiopia and El Salvador, as well as observers for the European Union and the Sovereign Order of Malta.
Mr. MORALES responded by noting that his report is not just about those who should be granted asylum, but rather, the migrant population more generally. They should have access to health services, regardless of whether they are refugees. It is important that this access also be granted to irregular migrants. In the context of a pandemic, this is not just a safeguard for a basic human right to life but also for public health in general.
To prevent migration from being used for political aims during the pandemic, States should abide by standards of international protection — such as non-refoulement and the restricted use for adults of migratory detention — as well as the basic premise of the right to asylum.
On good practices, he said States should promote public discourse that avoids xenophobia or hate speech against migrants, particularly those in an irregular situation. Another good practice is the use of firewalls, as this is a central element for access to health care and public services more generally. States should guarantee that, when migrants or those in irregular situations obtain health services, their information is not shared with immigration services. On vaccines, he said access should be established in law and in practice.
CAN ÜNVER, Chair of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, introduced that body’s annual report, covering its thirty-second session in April 2021 up until the thirty-third session, concluded one week ago. Noting that the Convention remains the least ratified of all international conventions with just 56 States parties — an “inexplicable phenomenon” in the current international environment — he said the world has witnessed multiple examples in which migrants were on the front line of responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Despite the positive, and in some cases critical, contributions that migrants bring to our societies, much of this is not being made visible,” he said, noting that negative perceptions and rejection often amount to outright discrimination and xenophobia against migrants.
He noted with regret that, as of the time of the report’s submission, as many as 23 States parties had not yet submitted their initial or periodic reports due under article 73 of the Convention. During the reporting period, one additional Member State, Togo, ratified the Convention. However, the limited number of States parties and the not-yet-operational inter-State and individual communications procedures pose major challenges. The Committee — in partnership with the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Council of Europe and the African, European and Inter-American human rights mechanisms — published a second Joint Guidance Note in March 2021 on Equitable Access to COVID-19 Vaccines for All Migrants, urging all States to provide for non-discriminatory access, regardless of nationality and migration status. Meanwhile, he said, with the support of the Open Society Justice Initiative and a communication agency in Chile, the Committee developed a global campaign to promote measures by States and societies in response to the challenges faced by more than 272 million migrants, from an approach that recognizes dignity, agency and human rights. He went on to outline the Committee’s various meetings, including an April 2021 online constructive dialogue with a high-level delegation from Chile.
When the floor opened for questions and comments, an observer for the European Union asked Mr. Ünver about the impact of the pandemic on the rights of migrant workers and members of their families, while the representative of Bangladesh stressed the importance of supporting national mechanisms, laws and policies promoting their rights. She asked what can be done to universalize the Convention and whether the Committee plans to issue a General Recommendation addressing the impact of the pandemic on migrants. The representative of Turkey said her country made significant contributions to negotiations of the 2018 Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, which includes references to migrant workers. The number of migrants is on the rise, she warned, calling on States to ratify the Convention. The representative of United Arab Emirates pointed to measures in her country guaranteeing the rights of migrant workers and their families.
Mr. ÜNVER, responding, said the Committee released General Comment 5 ten days ago. He called on Member States to change their policies and endorse the least ratified of the United Nations human rights treaties. “This is very timely because we are living in the age of migration,” he stressed. He stressed the importance of cooperation between treaty bodies, pointing to synergies with the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Entity on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (UN-Women) as well as other stakeholders, such as civil society. He also expressed concern over climate change, “one of the biggest challenges that migrants face”.
Right to Education
KOUMBOU BOLY BARRY, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, presenting her report (document A/76/158), pointed to the situation in Libya, where a shocking cycle of violence is unfolding against migrants seeking safety in Europe. Migrants transiting through Libya face unimaginable horrors, she said: they are left adrift at sea for days, dangerously intercepted and sent back, leading them to suffer arbitrary detention, torture and other serious human rights violations.
Noting that her report highlights obstacles faced by migrants in trying to exercise their right to education, she said more than 281 million migrants worldwide are deprived of their right to education. Yet, it is precisely through education that each individual is able to access the cultural resources needed to freely develop their identity, establish relationships and address global problems by participating in the development of their societies. Migrants face daily obstacles in the exercise of their right to education, including discrimination in all its forms, a lack of infrastructure, difficulty assessing public the education system, exclusion, segregation and lack of documentation, she added.
When the floor opened for comments and questions, delegates raised the issue of accessibility to education as a particular challenge for migrant children, with the representative of Cameroon asking how such education segregation can be brought to an end. The representative of Egypt, meanwhile, asked the Special Rapporteur for ways to advance support for host communities in their promotion of educational to migrants. In a similar vein, the representative of Luxembourg asked about measures States can take to include young migrants in educational institutions. The representative of Mexico drew attention to his country’s public education secretariat, which has developed guidelines for guaranteeing access to pre-, primary and secondary education, irrespective of immigration status.
An observer for the European Union asked the Special Rapporteur how digital teaching fosters the availability, accessibility, acceptability and adaptability of education, while the representative of Malta, associating with the European Union, said that the “four As” framework constitutes a guiding principle that safeguards the right to education. It is crucial for States to prioritize education recovery to avert a generational catastrophe, she cautioned. The representative of the United States meanwhile expressed his alarm at the lack of protected spaces for education in armed conflict settings. He asked how the international community can support educational opportunities for women and girls in Afghanistan.
Representatives of the Russian Federation, Syria, Lebanon, Qatar, Portugal, Algeria, Georgia, Republic of Korea, Ireland, India, El Salvador, China, Morocco, United Kingdom and Hungary also spoke.
Ms. BOLY BARRY, responding briefly, said that, in enabling the rights of migrants to access education, countries must develop participative policies that consider the many linkages between development needs, challenges and rights, as education cannot be seen outside the economy, housing or transportation issues. “A child today who has a home without healthy conditions and necessary tools cannot engage in learning online,” she said, pointing out that a child living in a home with 10 other people will necessarily lack the space to study. She called for policies and programmes to be designed with a social vision in mind that respects others’ identities, and to be standardized in order to enable students to exercise mobility. “Migration represents a source of wealth and diversity,” she stressed.
Turning to queries on the impact of COVID-19 on migrants’ access to education, she noted that she previously presented a report on the topic to the Human Rights Council, and asked States to revisit their policies with a view to establishing a mechanism that provides for such contingencies. States also should strengthen their legal systems and policies and improve their data collection. She concluded by making a “solemn appeal” to countries to ratify various relevant Conventions and effectuate access to the right to education through inclusive policies.