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Human rights approach to education policies needed in Chile – UN official

Chilean students during demonstration.
Chilean students during demonstration.

Human rights approach to education policies needed in Chile – UN official

The Chilean Government must adopt a human rights approach in its policies, particularly those regarding education, indigenous people and freedom of expression, a senior United Nations official has said.

During her visit to Chile earlier this week, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang stressed “the importance of a rights-based approach to public policies, especially in the education sector, as education is a core human right.”

Ms. Kang’s remarks come amid an ongoing wave of student protests in Chile, many of which have turned violent, with demonstrators calling for an end to for-profit educational institutions and lower interest rates on student loans.

“My visit has been framed in a climate of violence in the midst of social claims. I have seen with concern as isolated groups take advantage of peaceful demonstrations and perpetrate violent acts. I have also seen, in some cases, an excessive use of force by law enforcement officials. The authorities must investigate and sanction those responsible for these events and also protect those who demonstrate peacefully,” she said, according to a statement issued yesterday.

“I have heard the concerns of Chilean society, particularly regarding the situation of the country’s indigenous peoples, the state of education, and of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Many of these claims are legitimate and recognized in the international human rights instruments ratified by Chile.”

During her three-day visit, Ms. Kang met with various Chilean officials, including the education and labour ministers, as well as with community leaders representing university students and indigenous people.

“I have held frank and constructive discussions with Chilean authorities and have shared my observations. Our regional office for South America, based in Santiago, will continue the dialogue with the authorities so as to assist them in strengthening the integration of human rights standards into Government policies.”

Ms. Kang said Chile remains a positive example for many Latin American countries and stressed that it had all the capabilities to overcome its current social turmoil.

“Chile is no stranger to the current global human rights challenges. Chile is a solid democracy and has the institutions and tools to face them.”

Ms. Kang’s visit to Chile is the first leg in a three-country visit to South America that is also taking her to Paraguay and Uruguay.