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HRC44: Nordic-Baltic countries address the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education

UN Human Rights Council 44th Session
Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with special rapporteur on education
3 July 2020
To be delivered by Ambassador Katrin Saarsalu-Layachi
Madame President,
I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden and my own country Estonia.
As we deal with a global pandemic, UNESCO data shows that 91.3% of the world’s students have been affected by school closures, and more than 1.5 billion children have faced challenges in continuing school in normal terms. This hinders children from enjoying their right to education, without discrimination, and could lead to educational gaps and damage the prospects of a better future for many children. School closures impact girls more severely as they are exposed to domestic and sexual and gender-based violence, and they are less likely than boys to ever return to school as they may be expected to take on unpaid care work. The Nordic-Baltic countries are firm advocates of quality education for all children and acknowledge that in all education-related decisions, the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration.
This global pandemic has brought e-education and digital distance learning solutions to the centre of our attention. We recognize the concerns of the special rapporteur, inter alia, that online distance learning tools may exacerbate existing inequalities. We also recognize that, in 2020, about 826 million students kept out of the classroom by the COVID-19 pandemic do not have access to a household computer and 706 million have no internet at home. 
However, these facts do not undermine the importance of online learning but merely highlight the problem deriving from the lack of access to information and communications technologies We must work to diminish the digital divides that exist between and within societies, including the gender digital divide, so that all children can benefit from the digital transformation, leaving no one behind. But it is also true that technology alone is not enough. We must make sure that teachers and learners have the necessary skills to use the technology and that there is relevant online content available that makes the learning process interesting and engaging.
Finally, we invite all the countries to support UNESCO’s Global Education Coalition that offers direct support in providing inclusive hi-tech, low-tech and no-tech distance learning solutions.
Thank you!


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