The Ocho Rios Declaration

Adult Learning: A Key to Democratic Citizenship and Global Action

We, the participants at the Sixth World Assembly of the International Council for Adult Education, meeting in Ocho Rios, Jamaica between 9th and 12th August, 2001 affirm the vital importance of adult learning.

From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 through the Declaration of the International Conference on Adult Education in Hamburg in 1997, to the World Forum on Education for All in Dakar in 2000, an international consensus has been reached on the right to education and the right to learn throughout life for women and men as well as on the central role of adult education in support of creative and democratic citizenship. As the Hamburg Declaration has stated,

The informed and effective participation of men and women in ­every sphere of life is needed if humanity is to survive and meet the challenges of the future.

We have come to Ocho Rios from all parts of the world dreaming of a new international community of justice, democracy and respect for difference. Yet everywhere we see an economic globalisation that widens the gap between the haves and the have-nots creating needs among the ever-growing number of excluded women and men and also degrading the environment. It shifts the focus of learning from the collective to the individual. This context exacerbates diverse forms of discrimination based on gender, race, disability, class, religion, sexual orientation or personal preferences, age, linguistic and ethnic differences; and discrimination against aboriginal peoples, refugees, ­migrants and displaced persons.

We have taken notice of the large numbers of people from all corners of the world who in Porto Alegre, Gothenberg, Quebec City, Genoa and elsewhere have expressed their profound concerns about the directions proposed by global financial actors. At the same time we have taken notice of emerging forms of active citizenship and the importance of local and grassroots activities in challenging globalisation.

We are caught in a dilemma between the possibilities of a genuinely democratic and sustainable learning society, and the passivity, poverty, vulnerability and chaos that economic globalisation is creating everywhere. We commit ourselves to working for an equitable world where all forms of discrimination are eliminated and peace is possible.

In this context the International Council for Adult Education together with its regional bodies, national associations and networks needs to support people who have been voiceless in finding their own voice. We are committed to being self-critical in our own practice. To this end we have commitments and proposals for action which begins with ourselves.

Commitments/Proposal for Action

  • We will work to ensure that learners, women and men, are present, heard and taken account of in policy-making at the global level.
  • We will support the best possible learning opportunities for adults, and the work of those who facilitate learning in a range of contexts, flexible enough to be shaped by their needs and hopes. We seek a radical improvement in networking opportunities for both.
  • We will support initiatives to strengthen popular and democratic ­decision-making within our own networks and our immediate environment as a contribution to creativity and democratic governance.
  • We will also build capacity in advocacy for lifelong learning so that individuals and their communities can realise their potential. To that end we will publish in 2002 a toolkit on how to make the case for and by adult learners.
  • We will develop ways to report on how UN agencies, governments, NGOs, enterprises and other actors fulfil the commitments they have made to help adults learn - and in particular we will audit our own work and that of our networks in meeting the commitments made at the UNESCO International Conference on Adult Learning in Hamburg, 1997 and the Dakar World Conference on Education in 2000. In addition, we will map the contribution adult learning makes in social and economic transformation.
  • We will publish a report in 2003 on how far the commitments made in the Confintea V Action Plan have been met.
  • We support the establishment of an International Observatory on education in prisons.
  • We will share and support good practice on adult learning that strengthens sustainable development, equality, justice and the renewal of democratic governance.
  • We will help people benefit from each other’s experiences by ­ensuring the best access possible to relevant information through networking and the imaginative use of technologies. We recognise the value of grassroots materials and activities and their efforts to document them.
  • We will promote popular education, recognising learners’ inherent knowledge and using participatory methods and processes.
  • In the light of the Dakar commitment, we will work out the total cost for fulfilment of the Dakar Framework for Action and put pressure on the world community to meet funding needs.
  • We will identify the transformative capacities of workspaces and ­processes as learning sites in the full development of persons, their organisations and their communities.
  • We will promote initiatives that foster a synergy between the lifelong learning of health professionals and community-based popular health education programmes, in recognition of urgently needed primary health care reform, and the right of every citizen to health care.
  • We will promote the value of informal and non-formal learning for adults to balance the current bias towards formal provision.
  • We will review all of our work to ensure that it contests discrimination and marginalisation on the basis of gender, and all other forms of inequality and intolerance.
  • We will work to strengthen solidarity with adults denied the right to learn in situations of war, violent conflict, foreign occupation and sanctions.
  • We will support initiatives to celebrate adult learning through festivals, Adult Learners Weeks, and the achievement of Education for All National Action Plans.
  • We will develop a more active relationship with the media to strengthen its role in education and democratic citizenship.

We call on our partners in governments, multi-lateral and bi-lateral agencies to play their part in supporting us to achieve this programme of work.

We call upon social movements, non-governmental bodies and other civil society formations across the full range of public life and social ­concerns to work in partnership with us, complementing each other ­towards the same end.

We call for full support for the UNESCO Institute for Education as the United Nations mandated institution for adult and lifelong learning to hold the international follow-up meeting to CONFINTEA V in 2003.

We are determined to seize the moment to move from words to action.

For more information contact:

International Council for Adult Education,
720 Bathurst Street, Suite 500, Toronto, ON, Canada M5S 2R4
Telephone: 1-416-588-1211, Fax: 1-416-588-5725
icae@icae.ca