The development of a monitoring matrix simplifies the task of controlling governments in their complying with the Belém Framework for Action. The first conference of the South Asian education ministers after Belém already led to increased commitment to Adult Education. This now needs to be pursued in the individual countries. ASPBAE is taking up this task, but also bilateral and multilateral development agencies and, not least, governments themselves need to participate.
While not all the demands for decisive action articulated by civil society got incorporated into the Belém Framework for Action (BFA), the Conference Declaration of CONFINTEA VI, it still made significant advances from previous occasions of CONFINTEA. It made some concrete commitments and propositions with specific and time-bound monitoring mechanisms and tools.
Some progress has been made on how to strengthen the monitoring provisions of the Belém Framework for Action, most notably the development of a monitoring matrix for the Belém Framework for Action, a collaborative attempt from the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). It was intended to assist the countries in monitoring the implementation of the Belém Framework for Action, as well as to synthesize the national scenarios to have a global snapshot of progress made in Adult Education and learning. UIL convened an Experts’ Meeting in January 2011, to review and validate the monitoring matrix and to develop guidelines for country level reports that would feed into the Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE). The outcomes of the meeting can be termed as mixed, as the government representatives couldn’t come to a consensus on adhering to the monitoring matrix without substantial amendments, which would potentially reduce the rigor proposed by the monitoring matrix. It was deemed too demanding an exercise by the attending representatives of member states. The request was there for simplifying it, but no agreements could be reached in the time frame of the meeting. UIL at the end was handed the responsibility to go ahead with the concerns raised from the participants and attempt the unenviable and difficult task of coming up with a revised version that would satisfy everyone. Being the only civil society representative in the meeting, I was a bit disappointed to see even some commendable components of the monitoring matrix not receiving favourable response from the participants, especially the ones which required tangible proof that the countries actually lived up to the commitments. However, in this brief contribution, I would like to mention what ASPBAE (Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education), as a civil society network, with its members and partners, is doing to follow up on the Belém Framework for Action, along with some personal observations and recommendations for its more effective monitoring and implementation.
The first opportunity to monitor implementation of the Belém Framework for Action and to lobby for inclusion of its recommendations came in the same month CONFINTEA VI concluded, when the Government of Bangladesh hosted the South Asia Education Ministers’ Forum. ASPBAE and its partner national education coalitions of the region participated as civil society representatives in the meeting and brought up repeatedly references to the Belém Framework for Action. As a result, the Declaration of the Forum included the commitment to raise allocation to education to 6 % of GNP (the previous commitment was to raise it to 4 %). The action plan for the Declaration includes commitment to gradually increase allocation to Adult Education to 6 % of Education Budget (which was a recommendation made in the CONFINTEA VI Preparatory conference for the Asia and Pacific Sub-region, but was not included in the Belém Framework for Action). Considering the fact that average allocation to education in the South Asia sub-region still hovers around 2–3 % of GNP, and it contains half of the world’s illiterate population, this commitment is not a small one, especially with reference to the Belém Framework for Action. However, how this type of auxiliary commitment based on the Belém Framework for Action will be monitored, is not yet clear and needs to be addressed. There are positive trends though, as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, 3 of the 5 countries with the largest number of adult illiterates in the world, have significant new initiatives for promoting literacy.
While the the Belém Framework for Action Monitoring Strategy mentions that the monitoring of the implementation of the Belém Framework is not solely passive observation and evaluation, it does not come across clearly how it will be linked to advocacy efforts. The intention seems to be there, but the operationalisation of that intention is the hard part. In the Asian countries, the Belém Framework for Action is still relatively unfamiliar and unknown, and it needs to be better known in order to be monitored and implemented. As a civil society network, ASPBAE underlines the importance of collaboration between civil society and government and has planned national level CONFINTEA follow-up and planning meetings anchored by its member organizations, some of which have participated in CONFINTEA VI. The timing is appropriate, now that almost a year has passed since CONFINTEA VI. The follow-up event, with participation from government officials, has already taken place in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India, while other countries like the Philippines and Bangladesh are making conscious efforts to promote and monitor the implementation of the Belem recommendations and commitments. A comprehensive follow-up pack has been prepared by ASPBAE and shared with its members to facilitate the process, which includes the relevant documents including the Belém Framework for Action, a template for such a meeting, and a presentation that highlights the learning from Belém.
The challenge for all concerned will be to make sure that the monitoring process is adopted and supported by entities beyond Adult Education departments of some governments and UIL. Latin America so far has made significant advances in making sure that operational and pragmatic steps are taken to comply with the CONFINTEA commitments, as they have already developed, through a collaborative effort, indicators that capitalize on the existing information, rather than going through the cumbersome process of generational additional information. The country representatives from the region are meeting in Mexico this year to sustain the momentum in the monitoring effort, and other regions need to undertake similar efforts, contextualized to reflect their own reality.
Alternative statistics and information need to be generated (in addition to government statistics, which seem to be sparse when it comes to data on Adult Education, as seen in the national reports prepared for CONFINTEA), a good example of which is the civil society led Education Watch research initiative, which started in Bangladesh, but has been exercised in more countries in and beyond Asia. One important process that should incorporate monitoring of the Belém Framework for Action, is the End of Decade (EDA) process for EFA, which is led by the Regional offices of UNESCO, and which is covering important aspects of Adult Education, literacy and life skills, as encapsulated by goals 3 and 4 of EFA.
Bilateral and Multi-lateral development partners and aid wings of governments also need to be involved in the monitoring process, as some of them are showing renewed interest in promoting youth and Adult Education, especially geared towards employability. Just including EFA-FTI (Fast Track Initiative) reports within the monitoring process is not enough, as FTI currently funds primary education only, rather efforts to reform the FTI to go beyond primary education to include Adult Education have to be linked with the the Belém Framework for Action monitoring process, to make sure that the financing requirements of Adult Education is proactively met.
While the international processes of EFA and GMR have been considered in the proposed monitoring mechanism, the regional and Sub Regional processes and platforms need to be factored into the monitoring (e.g. SAARC, ASEAN, E-9), and the regional UNESCO offices can play the facilitating role. Active attempts to involve the civil society voices should also be made. One good example is the UNESCO regional office in Bangkok, which, in its endeavor to conduct the End of Decade process of EFA, has invited ASPBAE to play a major role in monitoring the progress of Goals 3 and 4 of EFA, which is strongly linked with the Belém Framework for Action.
Attempts are ongoing to operationalise and concretize the monitoring of the Belém Framework for Action, and we hope that the monitoring matrix and strategy will be unpacked further at the national and regional level, with ever-widening participation, to make sure that the monitoring feeds into strengthened formulation of legislation, policy and programme; backed by adequate financing, strongly focusing on participation, inclusion and equity, which is essential to ensure that the spirit of Belém Framework for Action is maintained and upheld.
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