UN Human Rights Council
General Debate on Agenda Item 8 (VDPA)
Joint Statement on Behalf of a Group of 70 Countries on Academic Freedom
As Delivered by the Permanent Representative of France
Mr. President, I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of a group of 70 countries.
As we commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, we recall that it asserts that: “education on human rights and the dissemination of proper information, both theoretical and practical, play an important role in the promotion and respect of human rights with regard to all individuals without distinction of any kind.”
This spirit is embodied within the Abidjan Principles on the Right to Education. It is similarly reaffirmed by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ assertion that “the right to education can only be enjoyed if accompanied by academic freedom of staff and students.”
Academic freedom is key to human rights education but also essential for technical and scientific progress and for the development of the creative industries and the arts. It is intrinsically linked to the effective enjoyment of other rights and freedoms, such as participation in public affairs, freedom of opinion and expression and the right to education, demonstrating the indivisibility of all human rights.
Without freedom to teach and research, and without freedom to disseminate and debate the results of research, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals will be compromised. Without academic freedom, there is no safeguard against the manipulation of information or against the distortion of history.
Regrettably, attacks on academic freedom are on the rise. These include: repression, intimidation and harassment of researchers and teachers in connection with their research and public statements; dissolution of research institutions and the establishment of restrictive legal or financial frameworks.
The UN Secretary General’s commitment to education and science, as reflected in his “Our Common Agenda” report, and UNESCO’s work are critical to protecting and promoting the right to education and the academic freedoms.
We hereby call for enhanced international cooperation towards strengthening the protection and promotion of academic freedom in the spirit of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. We further call on the United Nations human rights system to redouble efforts in addressing this issue, in conjunction with relevant multilateral and regional institutions.
In so doing, let us remember the wise words of Nelson Mandela, “From the poorest of countries to the richest of nations, education is key to moving forward in any society”.