Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education


The Special Rapporteur on the right to education is one of the thematic special procedures overseen by the United Nations Human Rights Council. It promotes the right to education both as an independent human right and as an essential means of realizing other human rights. In particular, the Special Rapporteur assists States in planning for the progressive implementation of the principle of compulsory primary education, free of charge, for everyone.

The Special Rapporteur must apply a gender perspective throughout the work of his or her mandate. To this end, whenever the Special Rapporteur’s reports pertain to the right of women to education, the Special Rapporteur also makes them available to the Commission on the Status of Women.


The mandate of the Special Rapporteur lasts for a period of three years. The mandate is filled by one highly-qualified individual.

The UN Commission on Human Rights established the Special Rapporteur’s mandate in 1998 with Resolution 1998/33. The Human Rights Council extended the mandate in 2008 (Resolution 8/4) and again in 2011 (Resolution 17/3).

In fulfilling the mandate, the Special Rapporteur undertakes country visits, communicates with governments concerning information and complaints received regarding alleged rights violations, engages in dialogue with relevant stakeholders, and submits activity reports to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council.

Country Visits

One important function of the Special Rapporteur is to conduct country visits, which it does on the basis of an invitation from the country concerned. Country visits provide the Special Rapporteur an opportunity to assess the status of the progressive realization of the right to education in a State. When appropriate, the Special Rapporteur also provides assistance to governments in developing and adopting urgent plans of action to achieve the progressive implementation of compulsory primary education free of charge to all.

The Special Rapporteur undertakes on average two country visits per year. Past reports of the Special Rapporteur following country visits can be viewed here.

More than 100 countries have extended standing invitations to country visits by all thematic special procedures. View the list of countries that have extended standing invitations here.

Receiving Information & Complaints

The Special Rapporteur receives complaints about alleged violations of the right to education. Importantly, the Special Rapporteur does not issue decisions concerning individual complaints and cannot require the State to remedy any alleged violation; rather, the Special Rapporteur raises the issue of concern with the relevant State. The Special Rapporteur may contact the government concerned to invite comment on the allegation, seek clarification, remind the government of its international obligations, or request information on steps being taken by the government to redress the situation. Generally called “communications,” these exchanges with the government can take a variety of forms of varying degrees of significance. Specifically, the Special Rapporteur contacts a government through either an allegation letter or an urgent appeal.

The Special Rapporteur keeps confidential all communications to and from the government until he or she includes them in addendum 1 of the Annual Reports submitted to the Human Rights Council annually. The communications sent by the Special Rapporteur and other special procedures are also compiled in periodic reports submitted to the UN Human Rights Council at each of its regular sessions.

In all communications, the Special Rapporteur is careful not to draw any conclusions about the facts of the case. Instead, the Special Rapporteur simply presses for the government to ensure that the right to education is not violated.

Allegation Letters

Generally, the Special Rapporteur sends an allegation letter in circumstances where the alleged violation has already occurred, or is not so pressing as to warrant sending an urgent appeal. An allegation letter generally contains a request for the government to clarify the substance of the allegation and to forward any information related to the allegation to the Special Rapporteur.

Urgent Appeals

The urgent appeals procedure is reserved for cases in which there are sufficiently reliable allegations that a person’s right to education may be violated and that the situation is time-sensitive in terms of loss of life, life-threatening situations, or imminent or ongoing damage of a grave nature. If it appears that the allegation letters procedure is unlikely to address the situation in a timely enough manner, the Special Rapporteur will send an urgent appeal to the government concerned.

Dialogue with Governments, Civil Society, and Other Actors

The Special Rapporteur also engages in dialogue with governments, civil society, and other relevant actors, the purpose of which is to identify solutions for the implementation of the right to education. The Special Rapporteur’s recommendations are the basis for this dialogue; they function as a way to evaluate the adequacy of the State’s implementation of the right to education. As with all of his or her duties, the Special Rapporteur must apply a gender perspective with respect to this dialogue.

Reports to the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council

The Special Rapporteur reports annually to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly on all of its activities relating to its mandate. These reports are available on the Special Rapporteur’s Annual Reports webpage.


Complaints should be submitted via the online submission form. Complaints should include the information requested by the Special Rapporteur, including the:

  • identity and other details concerning the alleged victim(s);
  • identity of the alleged perpetrator(s) of the violation;
  • date, place, and detailed description of the circumstances of the incident(s) or alleged violation; and
  • identity of the person(s) or organization(s) submitting the communication, which will be kept confidential.

The Special Rapporteur may also be contacted by:

  • Mail:

Special Rapporteur on the right to education
c/o Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
CH-1211 Geneva 10

  • Fax: +41 22 917 90 06