A number of reports on CONFINTEA, the 5th International Conference on Adult Education held in Hamburg in 1997, have appeared in this journal: the major documents were published in issue No. 49. There was a call even then from all quarters for a serious attempt to monitor the subsequent implementation of all the demands and recommendations made. One of the agencies pursuing this follow-up in an organized fashion is the UNESCO Institute for Education in Hamburg. It is worth contacting UIE at the following address: Feldbrunnenstr. 58, 20148 Hamburg, Germany, Tel.: +49 40 44 80 41 0, Fax: +49 40 410 77 23, e-mail: uie@unesco.org This paper is reprinted from the "CONFINTEA Follow-Up Report to the General Conference of UNESCO", UNESCO Institute for Education, Hamburg 1999.


Further Strategies – Intensification of International Cooperation

Forthcoming Strategies

The follow-up activities of the Fifth International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA) during the last two years, documented in this report, were focused on the dissemination of CONFINTEA documents, on the diffusion of the new vision of adult learning and on the general debate about ways to develop and implement new policies. Some countries and networks went further and elaborated concrete plans of action.

To review this immediate follow-up and discuss a longer-term plan, a CONFINTEA Follow-up Forum was convened and hosted by the Government of the Philippines, with special support from Norway. Attended by sixty governmental and non-governmental representatives coming from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and North America, as well as experts and representatives of multilateral and inter-governmental organizations, this Forum adopted a short statement to be addressed to the 1999 General Conference of UNESCO and amended the proposed forthcoming strategies.

The Forum Statement to the 1999 General Conference of UNESCO

"At the close of the century, the issues of globalisation, of scientific progress, of strengthening democracy, of respecting different identities and promoting cultural creativity are challenges that women and men in the South as well as in the North feel the need to understand and meet appropriately. They want to know more and participate more actively.

The opportunities to learn are increasing... for those who can take advantage of them throughout their lives. However, the opportunities to learn are much more limited for those who are already economically, socially and culturally excluded.

In 1997, at the Fifth International Conference on Adult Education in Hamburg, the 1500 delegates coming from 140 countries and more than 100 NGOs adopted a new vision of adult learning and made recommendations to ensure that the right to learn throughout life becomes a reality for all women and men.

Two years later, a consultative CONFINTEA Follow-up Forum, with governmental and non-governmental representatives, was held in Manila in September 1999 to review the situation. Following CONFINTEA, many actions were taken in 1998 and 1999 to disseminate the results and initiate actions. The attached CONFINTEA Follow-up Report, prepared by the UNESCO Institute for Education, describes briefly these activities that took place in the different regions and thematic areas. Having reviewed these actions and recognized the interest raised by CONFINTEA, the Consultative Forum stressed vigorously that now is the time for action. Now is the time for new policy development, for more cooperation between agencies, ministries, governments and social partners, and NGOs, for new investments in the creativity and imagination of people, for a concerted effort, in the spirit of the dialogues which were so promisingly initiated in Hamburg in1997 and which have since then taken place in all regions.

More than ever it is clear that the Education for All objectives will not be reached without a complementary two-pronged action: initial school education of children and adult basic education. Parental education and adult learning are essential to help create the positive environment needed for the initial education of children. There is no sustainable human development without the implementation of the right to learn for all women and men. Active labour, environment or health policies depend on intensively organized adult learning activities.

Adult literacy is a priority; it is at the core of adult learning and is a basic condition for building active learning societies. CONFINTEA reiterated and reinforced the many recommendations that emerged from previous UN summits on environment, women, social development, population, where the active and informed participation of women and men was called for as the only sustainable strategy. But the participation of adults in adult learning remains an uneven reality. This general situation needs to be reversed.

CONFINTEA was a turning point for the recognition of the importance of adult learning. The two first years following CONFINTEA have been, as can be observed in the attached report, an intensive period of information dissemination and regional initiatives as well as thematic projects. But CONFINTEA will only be a turning point if the Agenda for the Future becomes reality, if the right to learn for all within their respective cultures is fully recognized.

The enrichment of the International Literacy Day through an International Adult Learners Week, which will be built around the Literacy Day, has become one of the key follow-up initiatives of CONFINTEA. It is an important step in realising the UNESCO objective of learning throughout life and is a symbol of partnership for the implementation of that aim. The participants of the Consultative post-CONFINTEA Forum hope that this constructive proposal will be positively received by the General Conference of UNESCO.

Actions for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the commitments made at CONFINTEA need to be organized and pursued at regional and global levels.

The attached report gives details on the follow-up to CONFINTEA, while the last chapter, Further Strategies, spells out the plan agreed by the Consultative Forum for the implementation of the Agenda for the Future.

Adult literacy, non-formal education, vocational re-training, agricultural extension, health education, education for the ageing population, the learning opportunities offered by the new information technologies – all of these are aspects of adult education in the perspective of lifelong learning. UNESCO and its Member States face the challenge of building a synergy between these complementary adult learning provisions and investments in the creativity of citizens."

Manila, 27 September 1999

The Forthcoming Strategies for the Implementation of the Agenda for the Future

The future strategies discussed at the Consultative Forum will need, in practice, to be much more specific, much more action-oriented and much more related to the concrete implementation of the different commitments made by Member States and other partners.

Six series of strategies are proposed:

    1. Promotion of communication and of exchange within the large and dispersed community of adult learning through an electronic and printed Newsletter and a world documentation and information network.

    2. General and gender sensitive monitoring of provision and participation in adult learning (new statistical and qualitative reporting systems).

    3. Development and/or reinforcement of adult learning policies at national, regional and global levels.

    4. Implementation of the key recommendations on the UN Adult Learners Week, One Hour A Day, and Paulo Freire African Adult Literacy Decade.

    5. Advocacy, promotion of innovations and supporting exchange within and between the different thematic areas, in cooperation with the NGOs.

    6. Intensification of international cooperation strengthening the links between sustainable and adult learning .

1. Communication and Exchange Within the Large and Dispersed Community of Adult Learning

Three new mechanisms are proposed for exchange of information and documentation and for the promotion of communication across regions and thematic areas. The aim is to "construct" the evolving and still invisible field of adult learning.

    (1) A new regular publication, the Adult Learning Information Bulletin,1 both electronic and in print, will appear in English and French first, but immediately translated into Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish, in collaboration with regional partners. The purpose of this information bulletin, to be published four times a year (beginning the 1st of January 2000), will be to communicate factual information originating from the different regions, the different thematic areas and the multilateral agencies.

    (2) Link-up with adult learning related magazines. An inventory of adult learning related magazines, bulletins and periodicals will be made leading to a simple electronic special newsletter (on the model of the CON-NEXUS online) facilitating a continuous exchange of communication between these periodicals and inviting them to internationalize their publication.

    (3) The further development and operationalization of the Adult Learning Documentation and Information Network (ALADIN). The purpose is to finalize the links between the 100 adult education documentation centres in order to make their data banks accessible as soon as possible in all the regions2.

2. General and Gender Sensitive Monitoring of Provision and Participation in Adult Learning

The current monitoring mechanisms on adult education are limited in two ways: They report only on the activities of the well-known and institutionalized providers, and mainly the public ones. They seldom report on the real participation of people in the different kinds of adult learning opportunities. They do not monitor the development of adult learning from a gender perspective.

New methodologies (already validated for that purpose) need to be introduced for monitoring adult learning provision and participation by the new UNESCO Institute for Statistics and at national level.

Parallel qualitative monitoring is required for reporting on innovations and changes in policies, programmes, approaches.

Proposals should be made and disseminated at international and national level for the adoption of the new strategies for gender sensitive monitoring.

The UNESCO Institute for Education is invited to bring support to the NGO initiative, Educational Watch, for the monitoring of governmental policies and programmes intended to increase the participation of women in adult learning and for the monitoring of the implementation of the recommendations adopted in the other United Nations Conferences and related to adult learning.

3. The Development and/or Reinforcement of Adult Learning Policies at National, Regional and Global Levels

3.1 Support to General Policy Development

The priority is not the development of new programmes and projects. The approach proposed focuses rather on the adaptation and integration, when possible, of elements of the Agenda for the Future into existing plans, programmes, and projects.

3.1.1 The further dissemination of the CONFINTEA documents: integral versions, abridged and popular versions in different languages and in Braille, and short publications focused on specific areas of policy development.

3.1.2 The preparation of policy proposals, in line with the new vision adopted at CONFINTEA, on the still neglected dimension of adult and parental basic education in the pursuit of the objectives of Education For All and submission of a special report to the coming International EFA Forum and Assessment2000 in Dakar, Senegal, in April 2000.

3.1.3 Production of reference tools on adult learning policies and use of the new information bulletin for reporting on new national policies.

3.1.4 Reinforcement of national capacities for the development and implementation of new adult learning policies (regional seminars, workshops, consultations).

3.1.5 Facilitation of direct communication, exchange and cooperation between neighbouring countries for policy development.

3.1.6 Creation of a repertory of available expertise at national, regional and international level.

3.1.7 Studies on the financing and the economics of adult learning: production of advocacy tools for promoting the investment of multilateral and national agencies in adult learning; support of exchange among different partners on new and diversified ways to finance activities across ministries and agencies.

3.1.8 Promotion of the role of civil society. One of the significant trends that became apparent at CONFINTEA was the increasing role of civil societies in the development of policies as well as in the implementation of programmes. Many actions are required: support to national and international NGOs, production of tools on the financing of adult learning activities in non-governmental organizations, promotion of exchange between NGOs across regions and sectors of activities.

3.1.9 Reinforce the cooperation with National Commission for UNESCO with a view to the implementation of the Agenda for the Future and the information on adult education development.

3.2 Support to Regional Cooperation

At the Consultative Forum, each region (Africa, Asia and the Pacific, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America and the Arab states) developed proposals to reinforce cooperation and exchange within its region in close cooperation with the respective regional UNESCO offices. These regional proposals will be published before the end of the year within the full report of the Manila Consultative Forum and will guide the action of UNESCO and, in particular of UIE, in its cooperation with the UNESCO regional offices.

The participants expressed also the necessity to have in each regional office a linking professional responsible for the growing domain of adult learning and adult literacy, facilitating communication between countries.

The need was expressed to create links with the regional education conferences at ministerial level and with the regional offices of the different multilateral organisations, and, to that end, to systematize the information process between the different regional agencies.

4. The Implementation of the Key Recommendations on the UN Adult Learners’ Week, One Hour A Day, and Paulo Freire African Adult Literacy Decade

UNESCO is required to be more involved at international and national level for the further implementation of the recommendations on the Paulo Freire African Adult Literacy Decade and for the reinforcement in ten countries of this regional policy adopted by the OAU (Organisation of African Unity)3.

For the promotion of the One Hour A Day Leitmotiv, two actions are proposed: further studies on operational measures for freeing time for adult learners; production and dissemination of simple and abridged information tools.

For the further development of national adult learners weeks and the recognition of the International Adult Learners Week, the Forum proposed the following actions:

  • Presentation of the proposal by the UNESCO General Assembly in Paris and presentation at ECOSOC

  • Dissemination of a short publication and a practical guide documenting the development and benefits of national Adult Learners Weeks

  • International and regional training and capacity building workshops for the organisation of national Adult Learners Weeks in other countries

  • Launching of the first International Adult Learners Week in Hannover on the 8th of September 2000 as the closing event of the UNESCO-World Bank special three-day Global Dialogue on Knowledge Societies and Lifelong Learning

  • Production of a Home Page on the International Adult Learners Week

5. Advocacy, Promotion of Innovations and Supporting Exchange in and between the Different Thematic Areas

During and after CONFINTEA many networks were either reinforced or created to promote advocacy and exchange in specific areas of adult education. The list of these areas is being given below indicating with an asterisk (*) the thematic areas where there have been less activities.

  • Adult learning, democracy and peace4
  • Indigenous people and adult learning
  • Minorities and adult learning
  • Opening of formal institutions to adult learners
  • Promotion of research and of networking among researchers
  • Development of new literacy policies5
  • Promoting the empowerment of women6
  • Adult learning in the changing world of work7
  • Adult environmental education
  • Health promotion and health education
  • Adult learning in population issues
  • New information technology8
  • The contribution of museums and libraries
  • Adult learning among the ageing population9
  • Migrant education
  • Adult learning for prisoners
  • Making adult learning accessible to all persons with disabilities
  • The training of adult educators
  • The integration of adult learning in technical cooperation projects

6. Intensification of International Cooperation

The Forum insisted on the complementarity of the four roles of UNESCO in the aftermath of CONFINTEA: first, the catalytic and advocacy function to promote the right to learn, to sensitize the multilateral agencies and national governments on key priorities, and to promote international cooperation at large; second, the role of enhancing and supporting exchange among Member States, regions and different partners; third, the provision of technical and complementary financial support required by Member States in specific areas; and fourh, the normative function of UNESCO and the proposal to update the Recommendation on Adult Education adopted in 1976.

In many regional and thematic consultations the need to review the ongoing agenda of international agencies in the area of adult learning has been underlined, together with the necessity for more cooperation between agencies and, in parallel, the expected communication at national level between ministries. Consequently, the International Forum proposed that UNESCO and UIE, in particular, facilitate the dialogue and cooperation initiated at CONFINTEA between multilateral agencies and international NGOs. The Consultative Forum asked that links should be made with the Beijing and Copenhagen After Five meetings, because of the adult learning dimensions of many of their recommendations. UIE should explore the possibility of organizing an international seminar with the cooperation agencies on the insertion of an adult learning component in all technical cooperation projects.

Beyond these thematic networks and specific interventions, many organizations have expressed the need for more exchange at sub-regional level focusing on specific experiences.

Finally, the Consultative Forum proposes that, six years after CONFINTEA V, at mid-point between this Conference and CONFINTEA VI, an evaluation be made on the implementation of the commitments made in Hamburg by the different partners.


1 In the past, UNESCO published the Adult Education Information Notes in six languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish). This bulletin was interrupted before CONFINTEA and replaced temporarily by the various information campaigns to prepare the Conference and by the different instruments to monitor the follow-up in 1998 and 1999, including Connexus in print and Connexus online.

2 The directory of these documentation centres is already available and a homepage is already established: www.unesco.org/education/aladin

3 A review of the situation on the Paulo Freire African Adult Literacy Decade was made in UIE’s CON-NEXUS in print No. 1 (September 1998), page 14.

4 Demand for training in conflict definition and conflict solution, leadership training for women, etc.

5 Development of literate environments; promotion of multilingual literacies; relevance of basic education to community needs; integrative approach of basic education within a larger framework of adult learning; recognition of oral culture and traditional knowledge; strengthening the status and training of literacy personnel; raising the current low representation of women.

6 Participation of women in the design and the implementation of programmes; accessibility measures taking into account the economic, social and cultural barriers; development of learning environments addressing the strategic needs of women; enlarging the problematic to a gender perspective that includes both femininity and masculinity; etc.

7 The uneven participation of men and women according to sectors of activities; level of occupation and age and geographic areas; insertion of locally relevant vocational content into non-formal basic education programmes; extension of vocational programmes to the informal sector; etc.

8 The accessibility of infrastructures and equipment; the relevance of programmes to local cultures and concerns.

9 Within and as follow-up to the International Year of Older Persons.

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