More than a Battle of Acronyms: GATS, TRIPS, and FTAs Wreaking Havoc in Education in Africa – ETOs as an Antidote?

There is a real danger that education will be moved from international human rights to international trade law. The WTO’s GATS Agreement makes education a tradable services. Its TRIPS Agreement obliges WTO members to provide for strict copyright protection. GATS-plus and TRIPS-plus free trade agreements (FTAs) enhance trade liberalisation and compel even stricter copyright protection. This paper warns of the havoc in African education that commodifying education will wreak. It identifies as a vital component in reviving human rights – including education – as an effective legal category, the notion that human rights must be recognised to give rise to extraterritorial state obligations (ETOs) under international law. These are obligations of states, in certain circumstances, to respect, protect, and fulfil the human rights of those beyond their territory. The discussion will identify typical ETOs safeguarding the right to education in the international trade context.