The most important legally binding tools promoting academic recognition are, at regional level (which actually means “continental”, according to UNESCO’s definition of regions), the various international Conventions. Starting from 1975, UNESCO introduced six regional Conventions for the mutual recognition of degrees, diplomas, and academic studies, five for the UNESCO regions, i.e. Latin America and the Caribbean, Arab States, Europe, Africa, and Asia-Pacific, and one for the Mediterranean countries.
These conventions are legally binding and aim to promote academic mobility by fostering mutual recognition of qualifications related to Higher Education. Currently, more than 130 countries in the world have signed and ratified one or several Conventions.
Taking into account these facts, there has also been projected a global convention. It was adopted on 25 November 2019, by the 40th session of the UNESCO General Conference, becoming the first United Nations treaty on higher education with a global scope, and will enter into force in March 2023, as the neccessary number of ratifications has been reached. Also the Holy See has ratified the Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education.
The Holy See, through the 2nd Section of the Secretariat of State, has signed, ratified, and deposited the instruments related to 4 of the 6 regional conventions. Currently, the Holy See is the only subject of international law that has signed all four major Conventions which correspond to UNESCO’s four continental regions, as well as the Global Convention.
Although the decision to sign and ratify such conventions belongs to the 2nd Section of the Secretariat of State, starting from 2006, the Dicastery has explicitly received the task of taking on the responsibility for all practical and content-related aspects, developing its own, more focused strategy, as well as fulfilling all the obligations stemming from the Conventions. Amongst such obligations, suffice to mention the participation in related plenary sessions, daily contacts with permanent representatives of countries adhering to the same Conventions and their communications networks, as well as all evaluation and information procedures the are provided for by the same Conventions.
The Conventions the Holy See has signed and/or ratified more in detail:
Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education adopted on 25 November 2019 and expected to enter into force in March 2023, ratified also by the Holy See.
- 1979 was signed the first European recognition convention.
- In Lisbon on 11 April 1977 was signed the revised regional convention for the UNESCO Region Europe, including the United States, Canada, Australia, etc, named Lisbon Recognition Convention. It is the first “second generation” convention and was signed and ratified also by the Holy See that is also member of the pertinent ENIC-NARIC network of National Information Centres.
- 1983 was signed the Bangkok Convention for the Asia-Pacific region, to which also the Holy See becam party in 1995;
- In Tokyo on 26 November 2011 was signed the updated Tokyo Convention, that entered in to force on 1st February 2018 and was signed and ratified also by the Holy See, that is also member of the pertinent APNNIC network of National Information Centres.
- 1981 was signed the Arusha Convention, to which also the Holy See became party in 1998;
- In Addis Abeba on 12 December 2014 was signed the revised Addis Convention, that entered into force on 15 December 2019. It was signed and ratified also by the Holy See and the Holy See is also member of the apposite network of focal points/National Implementation Structures in creation.
Latin America and the Caribbean Region:
- On 19 July 1975 was signed the Mexico City Convention, accepted also by the Holy See in 1977;
- In Buenos Aires on 13 July 2019 was signed the revised Buenos Aires Convention, also by the Holy See, that entered into force on 23 October 2022. The ratification by the Holy See is still pending.
- The Holy See was not party to the Arab States Convention of 1978.
- In Paris on 2 February 2022 was signed the revised Arab States Convention, to which the Holy See could become a party once entered into force.