Once in every twelve years, UNESCO is calling for a world conference on Adult Education, widely known as CONFINTEA, following the French version of Conférences Internationales sur l’Éducation des Adultes. In December 2009, Belém in Brazil was the host for CONFINTEA VI. UNESCO had started the series of conferences with Helsingoer in Denmark in 1949, followed by CONFINTEA II in Montreal, Canada in 1960, after this in Tokyo in Japan in 1972, then in Paris, France, in 1985, and CONFINTEA V in Hamburg, Germany. All of them had specific priorities according to the development of Adult Education as a profession, influenced and inspired by their historical contexts.
Belém, with its cultural and environmental dimensions of a city in the Amazon area of the Northeastern State of Para, had undoubtedly a strong impact on the preparation and implementation of CONFINTEA VI. The high commitment of the Government of Brazil was already felt in the preparatory period led by the CONFINTEA VI Consultative Group which had been formed by UIL, the UNESCO Institute of Lifelong Learning, comprising of representatives from governments, the UN organisations, NGOs, and professional institutions years ahead of the event. This preparatory process was rich in its outcomes, but two should be explicitly mentioned here: Never before have so many governments, often in consultation and cooperation with civil society and the wider Adult Education sector, prepared their national reports on the state of the art, and could be placed on the UIL website for study. And they then could be used for the first time in a world report on our field, called GRALE, the Global Report on Adult Education and Learning.
This volume of “Adult Education and Development“ provides access to the major outcome document: The Belém Framework for Action. As a member of the Drafting Committee, I must confess that it has been a tough job to arrive where we finally reached, given the diversity of the members, interests and voices that looked into a draft that needed improvements, especially trying to look for a set of priorities and commitments that could win the majority of the participants. Additionally, we present here some of the major speeches from colleagues who were of special importance for us from DVV International, the specialized Institute of the German Adult Education Association: the Address by Professor Rita Süssmuth, President of DVV and Chairperson of CONFINTEA V, the longstanding partners Kunying Kasama Varavarn from Thailand and Professor Paul Bélanger as President of ICAE, an important statement by the Global Campaign for Education, plus two presentations from workshops where we had involved ourselves deeply. We are quite sure that readers will want to get more from CONFINTEA VI: The full report has just been published in different languages by UIL.
The second section of our journal goes deeply into the preparatory process of civil society and professional institutions in the field of youth and Adult Education, led by ICAE, the International Council for Adult Education, founded in 1973, shortly after CONFINTEA III, and now based in Montevideo, Uruguay. Early, the ICAE Executive Committee debated the importance of CONFINTEA and decided on three forms of inputs, centered around thematic concerns of policy, legislation and financing; literacy, poverty, work and vocational training, and migration. In line with these decisions, ICAE published a special issue of its journal Convergence, organized a virtual seminar followed by a face-to-face-exchange in Leicester, England, supported by NIACE, the National Institute of Adult and Continuing Education, and culminated in FISC, the International Forum of Civil Society that took place back-to-back with CONFINTEA in Belém. We are thankful to ICAE and its Secretariat for all the help in providing the documents from this process and its events. This will undoubtedly enrich the follow-up process that has already started via the UIL Advisory Group, which already had its first meeting, and via the Shanghai International Forum on Lifelong Learning in May. ICAE continues its strong involvement as well, and in its most recent Strategic Seminar and Executive in June 2010, has decided that CONFINTEA VI, the EFA Goals 3 and 4, and the MDGs are one of the three key areas of concern for task forces that work towards the ICAE World Assembly in Sweden 2011, and beyond. For deeper information, the ICAE website is very helpful.
The first issue of “Adult Education and Development” that I edited was number 10 in March 1978, more than three decades ago. I enjoyed being the editor a lot, it has been a very stimulating experience, and I learned much from the discussions with readers and authors. It is now time to say goodbye, since I handed over the Directorship of the Institute in Bonn to Dr. Roland Schwartz in autumn of last year, and since then have taken up the exciting and challenging position as Regional Director for South- and Southeast Asia to start the new DVV International office in Vientiane, Lao PDR. I thank DVV for all its support in the past, and I wish the journal and all those involved in its editorial work all the very best for the future.