UNESCO contribution to the 2nd UPR of Latvia (excerpts), 2015

I. BACKGROUND AND FRAMEWORK

Scope of international obligations: Human rights treaties which fall within the competence of UNESCO and international instruments adopted by UNESCO

I.1. Table:

TitleDate of
ratification,
accession or
succession
Declarations
/reservations
Recognition
of specific
competences
of treaty
bodies
Reference to the
rights within
UNESCO’s fields of
competence
Convention against
Discrimination in
Education (1960)
State party to this
Convention
Reservations
to this
Convention
shall not be
permitted
Right to education

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II. Input to Part III. Implementation of international human rights obligations [..]

Right to education

1. NORMATIVE FRAMEWORK
1.1. Constitutional Framework:

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2. According to Article 91, “All human beings in Latvia shall be equal before the law and the courts. Human rights shall be realized without discrimination of any kind.”
With regard to Language, Article 4 provides that “The Latvian language is the official language in the Republic of Latvia.” However, Article 114 adds that “Persons belonging to ethnic minorities have the right to preserve and develop their language and their ethnic and cultural identity.”

3. With regard to religion, Article 99 specifies that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The church shall be separate from the State.”

1.2. Legislative Framework:

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5. Section 3 of the [Education] Law enshrines the Right to Education. Section 3.1 prohibits differential treatment, by stating that “(1) The persons referred to in Section 3 of this Law have the right to acquire education regardless of the material and social status, race, nationality, ethnic belonging, gender, religious and political affiliation, state of health, occupation and place of residence.”

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8. With regard to language of education, Section 9 provides that “(1) Education shall be acquired in the official language in State and self-government education institutions. (2) Education may be acquired in another language: 1) in private educational institutions; 2) in State and selfgovernment educational institutions in which educational programmes for ethnic minorities are implemented. The Ministry of Education and Science shall specify in such educational programmes the subjects of study which are to be acquired in the official language; and 3) in educational institutions specified in other laws.”

9. With regard to education and religion, Section 10 states that “(1) The educational system shall ensure freedom of conscience. Educatees shall have the option to acquire Christian religious instruction or ethics, or Christian religious instruction and ethics concurrently. (2) The Law On
Religious Organisations shall regulate the relations between educational institutions and religious organisations.”

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14. The Official Language Law 9 of December 1999, which entered into force in September 2000, has the purpose “to ensure: 1) the maintenance, protection and development of the Latvian language; 2) the maintenance of the cultural and historic heritage of the Latvian nation; 3) the right to freely use the Latvian language in any sphere of life within the whole territory of Latvia; 4) the integration of members of ethnic minorities into the society of Latvia, while observing their rights to use their native language or other languages; 5) the increased influence of the Latvian language in the cultural environment of Latvia, to promote a more rapid integration of society.”

9 http://www.unesco.org/education/edurights/media/docs/379c1e69a983811cb9947050e70bef8fa0508e44.pdf,
http://izm.izm.gov.lv/upload_file/en/laws/Official_Language_Law.pdf, Last accessed on 05/02/2015

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Anti-Discrimination provisions

16. “Section 3, Paragraph 8 of the Education Law contains the provision that “discrimination” and types thereof shall correspond to the terms used in the Consumer Rights Protection Law. Section 3, Paragraph six of the Consumer Rights Protection Law states that direct discrimination is an attitude towards a person which on the basis of his or her sex, disability, race or ethnic origin in a comparable situation is, was and could be less favourable than towards another person. Indirect discrimination is a seemingly neutral provision, criterion or practice that creates or could create an unfavourable outcome on the basis of sex, disability, race or ethnic origin of a person, except for the case where such provision, criterion or practice is objectively substantiated with a legal purpose, for the achievement of which proportional means are chosen. As the aforementioned provisions of the Education Law are binding in the implementation of education at all its levels and in all types of education in accordance with Paragraphs 5 and 6 of the Education Law, as well as in the application of the norms of the General Education Law, the Vocational Education Law and the Law on Institutions of Higher Education, one could conclude that the Convention is being complied with in the implementation of the national educational policy.” 12

12 Latvia Report submitted for the Eighth Consultation on the implementation of the Convention and Recommendation against Discrimination in Education (2006-2011), 2013, p. 3

Religious Education 13

13 Latvia Report submitted for the Eighth Consultation on the implementation of the Convention and Recommendation against Discrimination in Education (2006-2011), 2013, pp. 26-28

17. “Section 6 of the Law on Religious Organizations states that anyone is entitled to acquire religious teachings, either individually or together with others at teaching establishments of religious organizations. Teachings of the Christian faith may be taught in State and local government schools to persons who have expressed a wish in writing to acquire this. Minors shall submit a request regarding a wish to acquire the teachings of the Christian faith with the written agreement of a parent or guardian. If a minor is younger than 14 years, a parent or guardian of this person shall submit a request on his or her behalf. Teachings of the Christian faith shall be taught according to a teaching program approved by the Ministry of Education and Science by teachers in the Evangelical Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Old-believer and Baptist denominations if there are at least 10 pupils in a school wishing to acquire the relevant teachings of the respective Christian denomination. Teachers are appointed by the leadership of the denomination, and they are subject to the same requirements as other educators in accordance with Cabinet Regulation No 347 of 3 October 2000 “Regulations regarding the Requirements for the Necessary Education and Professional Qualification of Educators”. Schools for ethnic minorities under the management of the State and local governments, in observance of the wishes of students or their parents or guardians may also provide religious teachings typical to the respective ethnic minority. Teachings of the Christian faith and ethical instruction shall be financed from the State budget.

18. In addition, we inform that Section 14, Paragraph two of the Law on the Latvian Union of Parishes of the Seventh Day Adventists states that the Church is entitled to provide instruction of the teachings of the Christian faith at State and local government educational institutions in accordance with the procedures prescribed in regulatory enactments, and Section 12 of the Law on the United Methodist Church of Latvia provides that the Church is entitled to provide instruction of the teachings of the Christian faith at State and local government educational institutions in accordance with the procedures prescribed in regulatory enactments. Considering the above, there exists a right in Latvia to provide instruction on the teachings of the Christian faith at State and local government educational institutions by educators of the Evangelical Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Old-Believer, Baptist, Methodist and Adventist denominations.

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20. At this time, the acquisition of moral values promoting the responsible attitude of students towards him- or herself, the family and society by shaping an understanding of ethical values is provided by the academic subjects in Ethics and Christian Studies (Annexes 20 and 21 of the basic education standard). In accordance with Sub-Paragraph 7.20 of Regulation No 1027, students acquire the said subject from Year 1 to 3. In turn, Paragraph 9 of Regulation No 1027 states that in basic education programs in Years 1 to 3 the students shall acquire ethics or Christian studies by parents’ (guardians’) choice. In the 2011/2012 academic year, 18% of pupils have opted to acquire Christian studies.

21. Section 6, Paragraph one of the Law on Religious Organizations provides that anyone is entitled to acquire religious teachings, either individually or together with others at teaching establishments of religious organizations. Section 10, Paragraph one of the Education Law states that the educational system shall ensure freedom of conscience. Students shall have the option to acquire Christian religious instruction or ethics, or Christian religious instruction and ethics concurrently. This legal norm observes the separation of the church from State, as well as an individual’s right to religious freedom, considering that not all residents of the Republic of Latvia belong to Christian denominations.

22. Taking into account the provisions of Section 7.¹ of the Law on Religious Organizations, in order to achieve the objectives of religious activities stated in their articles of association, registered religious organizations may develop institutions whose purpose and activity are not
profit-making: institutions for clerical training, monasteries, missions, deaconate institutions and institutions similar thereto, i.e., also educational institutions to provide education to children who belong to the respective denomination on its teachings and values. Thus, a diversity of religious
instruction is ensured in Latvia, as religious organizations are entitled to establish their own educational institutions where students may be given instruction on the teachings of the respective religion. At the same time, regulatory enactments do not stipulate a duty for students to acquire specific religious instruction, in observance of the provisions of the Convention.

23. The Section on Institutions of Higher Education of the Register of Educational Institutions of the Republic of Latvia lists the following higher education institutions in which theological education may be acquired in accordance with the operational objectives of the respective institution: University of Latvia, Rēzekne Higher Education Institution, Latvian Christian Academy, Luther Academy, Riga Higher Institute of Religious Sciences affiliated to the Pontifical Lateran University, and Riga Theological Institute affiliated to the Pontifical Lateran University, of which three are higher education institutions founded by religious organizations.

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1.3. Policy Framework

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ii) Inclusive Education

33. “Inclusive education in Latvia ensures equal opportunities for all children and young people regardless of their needs and abilities, financial or social status, race, nationality, gender, religious and political affiliation, state of health, residence and occupation in an accessible, respectful and supportive environment, with their full involvement and participation in the educational process and the achievement of success. Every pupil can choose an educational institution irrespective of the language of instruction, as the Ministry of Education and Science develops uniform standards for academic subjects and sample curricula for all educational institutions. It needs to be stressed that the Ministry of Education and Science develops national tests in Latvian and minority languages alike – mainly in Russian and Polish – and analyses the results attained by pupils. Pupils or educational institutions may also opt to sit centralized examinations in a minority language.

Issues relating to inclusive education are also incorporated into the general section of the professional development courses for educators. The policy of inclusive education in Latvia helps every pupil, regardless of the school type or educational programme chosen, in preserving their ethnic identity and origin, in perfecting and developing their language and culture, and in treating the cultures, traditions and languages of other nationalities with respect. Non-governmental organisations contribute greatly to the shaping of the inclusive education policy, as do various associations of educators and cultural societies and the media. The studies and opinion polls conducted by NGOs are of particular importance.”22

22 Latvia Report submitted for the Eighth Consultation on the implementation of the Convention and Recommendation against Discrimination in Education (2006-2011), 2013, p. 6

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v) Curriculum

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38. “Within the [Programme for the Promotion of Tolerance 2009-2013 initiated by the Ministry of Children, Family and Integration Affairs], it is planned to develop interactive materials linked to tolerance, Christian values education and social science classes in schools, to implement
campaign against violence in schools “Class without abuse”, to organize annual camps for youth from different cultural environment, and to develop and publish informatively educational materials for promotion of tolerance as well.”27

27 National report submitted to UNESCO in 2009 within the framework of the fourth consultation of Member States on the measures taken for the implementation of the UNESCO’s Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1974) (covering the period 2005-2008), p. 2

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2. COOPERATION:

43. Latvia is a party to the 1960 UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education since 16/06/2009.

44. Latvia reported to UNESCO on the measures taken for the implementation of the 1960 UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education within the framework of the:

  • Sixth Consultation of Member States (covering the period 1994-1999),
  • Seventh Consultation of Member States (covering the period 2000-2005)
  • Eighth Consultation of Member States (covering the period 2006-2011).

45. Latvia reported to UNESCO on the measures taken for the implementation of the 1974 UNESCO Recommendation concerning Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace and Education relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms within the
framework of the Fourth Consultation of Member States (covering the period 2005-2008). However, Latvia did not report to UNESCO within the framework of the Fifth Consultation of Member States (covering the period 2009-2012).

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III. RECOMMENDATIONS

Right to education

53. Recommendations made within the framework of the first cycle of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, considered on (please check the date on the following web site: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/Documentation.aspx )

54. In the Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review of July 11th 2011, various recommendations were made to Latvia.

55. The following recommendations enjoy the support of Latvia:

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iii. 93.29. Provide general information about anti-discrimination and reform the school curricula to regularly emphasize information about gender equality, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and ethnic minorities (Norway);

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93.41. Prevent violence against Roma women and girls, including harassment and abuse at school, and address the gaps in their formal education (Islamic Republic of Iran);

56. The following recommendations enjoy the support of Latvia, which considers that they have already been implemented or are in the process of implementation:

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iii. 92.15. Maintain State preschool and general education institutions with education/teaching in minority languages, including the Russian language (Russian Federation);

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57. Analysis:

Latvia adopted several general measures to improve access to education for all. [..] However [..] no sufficient specific policies have been implemented to further encourage inclusion of students from minority groups.

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Cultural rights

59. As a State Party to the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972), the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003)40 and the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural
Expressions (2005), 41 Latvia is encouraged to fully implement the relevant provisions that promote access to and participation in cultural heritage and creative expressions and, as such, are conducive to implementing the right to take part in cultural life as defined in article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In doing so, Latvia is encouraged to give due consideration to the participation of communities, practitioners, cultural actors and NGOs from the civil society as well as vulnerable groups (minorities, indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees, young peoples and peoples with disabilities), and to ensure that equal opportunities are given to women and girls to address gender disparities.

40 See UNESCO 2012. Latvia Periodic Report on the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage: http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/doc/download.php?versionID=18493 See UNESCO 2014. Latvia Periodic Report on the status of status of elements inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding: http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/doc/download.php?versionID=33108

41 See UNESCO. 2012. Latvia Periodic Report on the 2005 Convention on the Promotion and Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

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Document data: 2015 (not earlier than February 5). Link: https://uprdoc.ohchr.org/uprweb/downloadfile.aspx?filename=2220&file=EnglishTranslation

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