Washington International Law Journal


The Millennium Development Goals (“MDGs”) have been highly successful in bringing commitment, expertise and funding to key human development targets in education, health, gender equality and other poverty reduction measures. Yet, the MDGs failed to integrate, or even align with, the international human rights laws to which states have committed themselves. Many commentators argue that linking the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals with human rights would bring greater participation by people living in poverty in creating the agenda intended for their benefit, higher levels of accountability from governments and international organizations, greater attention to marginalized groups and economic inequality, and a universal framework that addresses poverty in high- and middle-income states, as well as low-income states. Universal human rights education–mandated during the free and compulsory school years–is one goal that could effectively integrate human rights into the post-2015 development agenda. This goal promotes universality, equality and nondiscrimination, participation and accountability, key human rights principles missing from the current MDG framework. It also furthers one of the main purposes of the United Nations–to promote respect for, and observance of, human rights for all–and derives from the international legal obligation to provide free and compulsory primary education that aims to promote the realization of human rights. Finally, it will build the capacity of rightsholders to demand their rights and duty-bearer to meet their obligations. In sum, universal human rights education is a human rights-based approach to development and merits serious consideration as a goal for the post-2015 agenda.

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