Student blog post: In light of the article by Melissa Bellitto, ‘The World Bank, Capabilities, and Human Rights: A New Vision for Girls’ Education beyond’ (2015) Florida Journal of International Law 91 discuss the role of the World Bank as a funder of education.  

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 This post (edited for publication) is contributed to our blog as part of a series of work produced by students for assessment within the module ‘Public International Law’. Following from last year’s blogging success, we decided to publish our students’ excellent work in this area again in this way. The module is an option in the second year of Bristol Law School’s LLB programme. It continues to be led by Associate Professor Dr Noelle Quenivet. Learning and teaching on the module was developed by Noelle to include the use of online portfolios within a partly student led curriculum. The posts in this series show the outstanding research and analytical abilities of students on our programmes. Views expressed in this blog post are those of the author only who consents to the publication.

Guest blog post: Daniele Tatoryte

Introduction

This blog post examines the role of the World Bank as a funder of education. Defined as an international organisation that helps emerging market countries to reduce poverty and promote prosperity, the World Bank is part of the World Bank Group, which is a family of five international organisations, and is composed of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Development Association. The World Bank funds a variety of projects notably relating to education by providing loans in developing countries. It has been involved in education since 1962, thus being the largest international funder of education for development in low-income countries and supporting them with $3 billion a year. Overall, the World Bank has funded 2512 education projects. In this blog post I will first discuss the issue of gender inequality and then discuss education in the broader framework of human rights as I believe that the World Bank’s important role in supporting education should be more human rights focused.

 Gender Inequality

The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women is the key international legal instrument that seeks to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women. In spite of its existence, girls (M Bellitto, ‘The World Bank, Capabilities, and Human Rights: A New Vision for Girls’ Education Beyond 2015’ (2015) 27 Florida Journal of International Law 91) are the most affected by education inequality as a large majority does not have access to education owing to cultural and social barriers (M Nussbaum, ‘Women’s Education: A Global Challenge’ (2004) 29 Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 332). It is submitted that if girls could access education, they would better tackle issues such as medical care and contribute to the economy of the State, which is the aim of the World Bank (Bellitto at 101). Scholars such as Nussbaum and Sen have criticised the fact that women are treated as economic commodities and that their worth is based on their ability to contribute to the formal economy (see discussion in Bellitto at 95). The best way to deal with this problem is to implement anti-discriminatory laws that eradicate discrimination, a good illustration being India that has adopted a rights based approach in primary education. The World Bank, UNESCO and the Global Partnership for Education are focused on improving gender equality and empowering girls and women through quality education. To attain these goals, projects such as The Education 2030 Framework for Action (FFA) aims to achieve greater results by 2030. Some of their goals are to train more teachers, to support gender equality and improve the quality of teaching. In this light it is argued that educational planning could be a good approach to take into account and tackle all factors affecting education.

(The first UNESCO chart below shows the number of children (according to education level and gender) who were not enrolled in education between 2000 and 2015 whilst the second   indicates that the number of children without access to education varies depending on the continent.)

 

 Human Rights and Education

So, how can this problem be tackled? First, one may argue that the World Bank is bound by human rights law. After all, it has international legal personality as it fulfils three requirements: (1) it is independent from its member states in its functioning; (2) it possesses the capacity to create international rights and obligations; (3) and it possesses the capacity to bring or defend international claims (see here at 364-365). Unfortunately many courts do not have jurisdiction over international organisations and so there is no international judicial remedy against the World Bank. That being said, the Inspection Panel of the World Bank plays an important role as a control mechanism. If the funding provided by the World Bank is not used correctly, a claim can be brought by a minimum of two individuals so that the Inspection Panel can start an investigation. For example, in Nepal a claim, later dismissed, was made that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation applied to vocational education. Another solution could be to direct the funds of the World Bank to local NGOs, rather than to central governments and education ministries (see here at 61-62), with a view to making education more effective and compliant with human rights law.        ​​​​​​​

Conclusion             

From my point of view, the World Bank and the State should work together to overcome social and cultural barriers affecting gender inequality in education. Undoubtedly, there has been a marked improvement in providing education and achieve gender equality. That being said, I could also argue that the approach the World Bank is adopting towards education is more economic than human rights based as primary education is supposed to be free and accessible to everyone. If access to education depends on one’s ability to pay for it then the human rights to education is violated. Moreover, it should be stressed that education is a necessity for the economic growth and development of these countries. On the one hand the World Bank provides these developing countries with funding to improve their economy but on the other, it takes away their financial independence and obliges them to violate human rights law by complying with conditions such as the privatisation of schools. Consequently, the implementation of a monitoring body independent from the World Bank is essential to improve its functioning and ensure that all its actions comply with human rights law.

A summary of this blog post in the form of a Prezi presentation is available here.