Heribert Hinzen

The ninth Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) was held in October this year in Vientiane, Lao PDR. A broad network of civil society organisations from both continents used this opportunity to come together in the ninth Asia-Europe People’s Forum, meant to be a space for “influence, dialogue and cooperation, providing opportunities for social actors in each region to share, build and strengthen campaigns and develop recommendations and people-centred alternatives at the national, regional, and inter-regional levels”. Heribert Hinzen, formerly head of DVV International for many years, and now the director of the DVV International regional office for South and South-East Asia, describes how the menacing effects arising from climate change and the ensuing challenges for education and sustainable development were at the centre of the forum’s attention.

Experiences in Exchange, Networking, and Cooperation between Asia and Europe: Building on and Integrating into Existing Frameworks and Processes

Colleagues and partners in Adult education and learning have manifold opportunities to engage in networking with an increasing variety of organisations, platforms and coalitions. they are available on global, regional and national levels, and sometimes it is hard to find out where the benefits for such cooperation lies – on top of the agendas which keep each of us busy anyway. we have to be selective, and evaluate after some time what works and what doesn’t.

DVV international has to make decisions on these issues and priorities again and again. we have to look at them in the contexts of the many options of intergovernmental actors like uneSco or ILo, and on programs related to the Millennium development goals (Mdgs), conFInteA or education for All. on the ngo-side we have IcAe, the International council for Adult education, as our global network, and there are the regional ones like eAeA for europe, ASPBAe for Asia Pacific, and ceAAL for Latin America.

Here we look at an example of networking coming from the regional office for South and Southeast Asia of DVV international, based since the end of 2009 in Vientiane, the capital of Lao Pdr. we called it VICAED, the Vientiane initiatives on cooperation for Adult education and development, intended as a series of different themes, and with a changing partnership in the years to come. It builds on experiences which DVV international has made for some time now with BocAed, the Bonn conferences on Adult education and development, and which have covered important themes like Migration and Adult education; Financing Adult education for development; or remember for the Future, all well documented through the DVV International publications. the next one coming forward in 2013 will be on technical and Vocational Skills development in the Informal Sector.


Increased globalisation does not mean that the cooperation between regions is getting less important. one of the very important processes where this can be seen clearly and strongly is between europe and Asia, or more specifically between ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian nations, and the eu, the european union, on the level of governments, Parliaments and the People. the process is called ASeM, the Asia europe Meeting. the membership in participation is no longer confined to ASEAN and eu alone, but on both continents important additional players have joined, like china, Japan, korea, Australia, and russia.

Lao PDR is hosting the following relevant gatherings around ASEM during the year 2012:

  • the ASEM Summit of the government Leaders of member states and their delegations on 5 + 6 november will have the topic: “Friends for Peace, Partners for Prosperity”, and relevant information is provided via www.asem9.la
  • the Asia-europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting was on 3 – 5 october, and ways for their future cooperation are highlighted on www.asep7.gov.la
  • the Asia europe People’s Forum (AEPF) met for the ninth time from 16 – 19 october, and gave participants a chance to prepare joint efforts for the future, see more at www.aepf9.info

ASEM Ministers of education meet every two years. there is an ASeM education Secretariat organising respective activities. Please see www.asem-educationsecretariat.org.

In the background there is another important organisation, the Asia-europe Foundation (ASEF) with a variety of programs supporting the actors on specific aspects and themes.


Already in 2010, DVV international started discussions with the Asia South Pacific Association for Adult and Basic education (ASPBAE), working from Mumbai and other places, and the european Association for the education of Adults (EAEA), based in Brussels, about how a joint engagement could be implemented. Both associations have broad memberships with organisations from a wide range of professional expertise, and are deeply grounded in the civil societies of their countries. Both are regional members of the global IcAe, and showed interest in making use of the opportunity for stronger cooperation between the two regions.

In 2010, to pave the way, the regional director of DVV International offered to coedit a special issue of LLine, the journal on Lifelong Learning in europe (www.lline. fi), covering a number of articles from Asia and the Pacific, with some follow-up in later numbers. Building on these efforts it was then possible to have a special issue with several reprints of articles that had appeared in the past few years, covering “Literacy, Adult Education and Lifelong Learning in Europe and Asia Pacific”, justin-time for the opening of AePF9, ready to be distributed widely to participants, and to have additional copies later for follow-up.

The ASEAN People’s Forum met in Phnom Penh, cambodia from 28 to 31 March, prior to the ASeAn Summit of Heads of States. the process was important for Lao Pdr as a good number of participants came from Laos – mostly members of, or associated with the Lao nPA (non-profit association) network and others who would be instrumental in the preparation of the AePF. there were a series of presentations and workshops, and several of the cambodian and Philippine partners joined, as well as ASPBAe and DVV International. together we organised a workshop on “Transforming the lives of vulnerable women and youth in ASEAN communities through quality education, literacy and life skills” which was well attended, and the recommendations were taken forward to the organising committee.

Additionally, in the first half of 2012 there were the following events, announced and further documented on the website www.aseminfoboard.org:

  • TVET Symposium “Putting Frameworks into Practice: Demand, Development and Decision”, 28 – 29 February, Berlin, germany
  • International Asia-europe conference on enhancing Balanced Mobility, 5 – 6 March, Bangkok, thailand
  • ASeM Forum on Lifelong Learning “Learning Unlimited” during the danish eu presidency, 29 – 30 May, copenhagen, denmark

The meeting in Bangkok was quite interesting as there were important presentations and discussions on a future AQF, which will be the ASEAN Qualifications Framework, and the ACTS, which is short for the ASEAN credit transfer System. All those who know the situation in europe could quickly link this debate to the existing eQF, the european Qualifications Framework, and the ECTS as the european credit transfer System. everyone working in non-formal or out-of-school youth and Adult education in europe knows about the difficulties to have the respective competencies and skills duly recognised, validated, and accredited. A very helpful resource in this respect are the new guidelines on recognition, Validation and Accreditation (RVA) of non-formal and informal work by the uneSco Institute of Lifelong Learning, available on their website. Because of their importance, but difficulties in using them, and the fast process of ASeA integration and opening the market for goods and services by 2015, the regional office of DVV international supports the translation of these guidelines into Lao and khmer.

“Learning Unlimited. ASEM Forum on Lifelong Learning” was another opportunity to prepare and network prior to the events in Lao Pdr. this forum was organised by the ASEM research Hub on Lifelong Learning. Around 100 participants from Asian and european countries, mainly representing governments and universities, exchanged experiences in the development of national Lifelong Learning strategies and systems, and tried to find out and to compare what the achievements have been so far. key concepts discussed centred around learning cities and the learning society, at the same time looking at recognition and validation of the competencies and qualifications gained, and needed. the deputy-director of DVV International – who is at the same time Vice-President of EAEA – and the regional director participated. the conference is well documented on www.asemforum2012.dk.

The People’s Forum

The ninth Asia-europe People’s Forum (AEPF9) took place under the title: “People’s Solidarity against Poverty and for Sustainable Development: Challenging Unjust and Unequal Development, Building States of Citizens for Citizens”. the four broad themes that were looked at especially, were:

  • Universal Social Protection and Access to essential Services
  • Food Sovereignty and Sustainable Land and natural resource Management
  • Sustainable energy Production and use
  • Just work and Sustainable Livelihoods

All in all, a thousand representatives from civil society organisations in Laos, Asia, and europe came together in the national cultural Hall. It was the largest event of civil society meeting in Lao Pdr. there was a day of formal opening with many high-level representatives, including the deputy Prime-Minister of Lao Pdr. then two intensive days of information and exchange, consultation and debate followed via a number of topic forums, and a good number of workshops in line with the four major topics. on the last day a draft of the final declaration was presented and further improved, and then adopted by the plenary. the chair of the international organising committee handed the declaration over to the deputy Foreign Minister of Lao Pdr, who will take it on to the ASeM Summit of the government representatives.

DVV International and its national as well as regional partners were highly interested to take up the invitation to join the AePF9. In a process of consultations, a plan emerged to participate through the organisation of three workshops within the topical framework of the forum:

  • On Lifelong Learning and education: as part of access to essential services
  • On environmental education and climate change: as part of natural resource management
  • On Skills development and training: as part of work and sustainable livelihoods

It was planned that ASPBAE and EAEA will each bring a group of colleagues from their associations as well as several member organisations of different countries to cover those topics, and provide substantial contributions to discuss and exchange in the areas of Lifelong Learning and poverty reduction, environmental education and climate change training, skills and capacity development. each of the three topic workshops was to be organised through a group of colleagues, covering the roles of moderation, reporting, and presentations, respecting a diversity of backgrounds. As a prerequisite of the AePF9 organising committee, a partner from Laos was to be included in each of the workshops as well. Lao participants came from the garment Skills centre, the department of non-formal education, the Ministry of natural resources and environment, and green discovery.

Presentations and results from the workshops will be further documented. However, key findings and recommendations of the workshops for the future development agenda will be brought back by participants to their own organisations, their countries, and regions, as well as forwarded to the leadership of the AePF to be integrated in the final declaration.

The german government strongly supported the AePF9. the Federal Ministry for economic cooperation and development (BMZ) contributed financially to these workshops, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is providing funds to the german Society for International cooperation (GIZ) to help cover the overall expenditure of this important event.

Cooperation with the press via the Vientiane times worked out fine as well. In a press release prior to the event the regional director stated: “This is a very good

Opportunity for such cooperation within ASEAN and with European partners. A successful AEPF9 is a big chance for all of us. People and their capacities are the major resource in the development process. AEPF will be an educational event also, contributing to Lifelong Learning for all.” As all three workshops were facilitated at the offices of the Lao Journalists Association, the Skills and Liaison coordinator of DVV International, Mr khanthong Inthachack, is confident that “the workshop venue is a good place, and we are happy that we get such strong support from the Association. We shall put banners outside to create greater visibility for AEPF9.”

Three workshops during AEPF9

We did receive timely information from the AePF9 secretariat that our proposals to organise three workshops in the framework of AePF9 had been accepted, so that we were able to prepare them well. each of them had several presenters, and they were advertised through a joint information leaflet, distributed widely during the event to attract participants in competition with the many other interesting workshops organised by others in parallel sessions. However, we managed to attract altogether more than 150 participants to three workshops, each lasting around three and a half hours. our workshops were on:

Workshop 1 – Skills for work and life: Securing decent jobs and sustainable livelihoods

There is a close relationship between skills, work, and life. education and training are key in realising that youth and adults can perform well in their working environments. At the same time it is not just any kind of job that people should get involved in. there is a human right for decent jobs, and new jobs require new skills. A major problem is still child labor, which is estimated by ilo to be at the level of 220 million. the presenters will look at the topic from different dimensions covering european, asian and lao perspectives. Better skills for all has to be much higher in the development agendas of the post-2015 for mdg as well as efa. the presentations, the discussions, and the outcomes should contribute to this.

Presentations included literacy and life skills for vulnerable youth and women, the eu 2020 new skills for new jobs challenge, gender in sustainable livelihoods and work, and pointers to the Mdg and eFA post-2015 agendas in the light of Lifelong Learning for All. the participants agreed on the following recommendations:

  • call on national governments and regional intergovernmental bodies like ASeAn and eu to finance fully-costed literacy, livelihood, life and vocational skills programs for the marginalised and vulnerable groups as a strategy for poverty eradication and sustainable development.
  • Put in place institutional systems for policy, legislation and financing in support of Lifelong Learning for all, ensuring the learner’s continuing education, training and participation in society.
  • Any educational intervention, whether primary, vocational or continuing education, should first and foremost increase an individual’s freedom of choice concerning his or her life course. there is a need to evaluate the people’s aptitude and their needs to create their motivation and excitement to learn and grow.
  • need for affirmative action to integrate social protection into education programs to ensure continued learning and active participation of vulnerable groups in society.
  • governments should address the issue of increasing migration of youth and other vulnerable migrants into cities within nations and across continents by ensuring opportunities for upgrading, learning new skills to protect them from vulnerable employment and develop their potential self-development, productivity and responsible citizenship.
  • girls and women are more vulnerable in terms of access to educational and employment opportunities. there is a need for relevant education, which can enable women and girls to live with dignity, security and have decent livelihood options.
  • need to develop education programs that match knowledge and skills with local economic development and national and global markets for employability, livelihoods and poverty eradication.
  • development agendas should acknowledge the close relationship between work, skills and life in the education and training process for children, youth and adults. there is a need to advocate for the human right to decent jobs. new jobs require new skills. Better skills for all should be a priority in the development agendas of the post-2015 for Mdg as well as eFA.

Workshop 2 – Lifelong Learning for All: A key for poverty eradication and sustainable development

Education is a human right, it is an essential social service, it is needed for children, youth and adults as an important part of Lifelong Learning, from literacy through schooling to higher education and training. Presenters will look at the topic from different dimensions covering european, asian and lao perspectives. Lifelong Learning for all has to be much higher in the development agendas of the post-2015 for mdg as well as efa. the presentations, the discussions, and the outcomes and recommendations should contribute to this.

The workshop dealt with two interesting case studies from Lao Pdr and cambodia on literacy, a regional overview from Asia Pacific, and two presentations on developments in denmark and germany. the recommendations were:

  • Securing the right to quality basic education for All – one of the indispensable enablers for other economic, social, political and cultural rights – will be an unfinished agenda by 2015, whether it is in europe or in Asia. Hence, any post-2015 development agenda should continue including equitable opportunities for education and learning among its priorities, or the gains of the past two decades could be easily wiped out.
  • governments, donors, multi-lateral bodies and inter-governmental bodies should acknowledge Lifelong Learning as a human right, an essential social service for children, youth and adults from literacy through schooling to higher education and training whether formal, non-formal or informal.
  • government policies and programs should promote literacy and respect for local wisdom as the foundation for Lifelong Learning to improve human development and thus have an impact on socio-economic development of the country.
  • the world education leaders should mandate Lifelong Learning as the overarching global goal with the contextualised national targets.
  • People and communities must have a say on what ‘quality’ learning means and what learning contents are relevant to their contexts including curricula and the skills that match with peoples’ livelihoods. governments and uneSco should develop indicators for measuring success of eFA goals 3&4 beyond the adult literacy rate. Assessment indicators must include health learning outcomes, self-determination skills, participation skills, solidarity skills, livelihood skills and all other Lifelong Learning skills related to the attainment of the Mdgs.
  • For lifelong and life-wide learning to reap dividends in addressing poverty and sustainable development within countries, they must be understood and explicitly included in broader policy frameworks, legislation, provided with sustained financing and empowered through inclusive governance.

Workshop 3 – Environmental education and climate change training for sustainable development

Global warming and climate change are becoming a felt reality of life and our environments for more and more people. education for sustainable development is a key element of all education, learning and training for children, youth and adults. this year we are still in the decade of education for sustainable development declared by unesco. the presenters will look at the topic from different dimensions covering global, regional, national and local perspectives and practices. concrete examples for environmental education will be presented and discussed, resulting in recommendations for policy and practice.

The workshop had presentations on ecosystem-based approaches in climate change training, case studies from cambodia and Laos on youth environmental education and awareness raising, and a regional perspective via the cLIMAte AP network. recommendations of the workshop were:

  • Environment and climate change education within the education for Sustainable development (eSd) framework must be a key element of all education and training of children, youth and adults. eSd is necessary to appreciate nature, our linkages with it, and our active involvement to protect it.
  • Climate change training should be an opportunity to revisit the development paradigm that is built on the premise of limitless growth dependent on fossil fuel energy and posit a more sustainable development pathway.
  • Civil society organisations must analyse and respond to the new inter-country investments in ASeAn and eu regions that have environment implications, and create awareness for social and environmental accountability of the private sector.
  • State and non-state actors need to create awareness for the consultation of local communities and civil society representatives in providing environment clearance for development projects that are involved in the utilisation of natural resources.
  • The eco-system based approach as cheap, simple, and sustainable solution must be part of the content and context of environment education and climate change training.
  • Presenters and participants of the workshop recommend further that there is a need to demand from un, eu, multi-lateral agencies and governments to make financial and other support available for eco-based participatory learning processes for climate justice, environmental education and climate change training.
  • Environmental education and climate change training should be incorporated in development projects and developed assistance.
  • Both developed and developing countries need to focus on building awareness for climate change and to take responsible positions on global climate justice issues in the respective international conferences and conventions.

Important messages from these recommendations on skills, environment and Lifelong Learning found their way into the final declaration which can be found on the AePF9 website.

A Good Chance for Networking

the DVV International team from the regional office was well-prepared to welcome partners and colleagues. they played the link role in respect to preparation and implementation, including the logistical support to presenters, moderators, and reporters in all three workshops. they were highly motivated to contribute to a big success. the team worked hard to ensure that the event was successful. In the final phase daily meetings were used to settle all that was needed for the workshops in respect to logistics, finance, and the venue. And to make it an event which the colleagues and partners coming from germany and denmark, cambodia and the Philippines, India and nepal will never forget, visits to the Laotian cultural heritages like that Luang, Vat Sisaket and Simuang temple as well as Patuxay were prepared. therefore, in addition to the workshop programme there was:

  • a booth for distribution and display of the materials of partners
  • banners for the information and advertisement of workshops
  • posters on the topics of the three areas of skills, environment and Lifelong Learning for All
  • a city tour on the cultural highlights of Vientiane
  • educational visits to vocational training centres
  • a solidarity dinner with Lavong dancing a farewell baci following Lao tradition.

The new DVV International calendar for 2013, prepared together with the department of non-formal education of the Ministry on education and Sports for Lao Pdr on “Better skills for better lives through non-formal education and Lifelong Learning”, was produced just-in-time, and was distributed widely to participants – making sure they will remember the AEPF9 in Lao Pdr throughout the year 2013.

Afterwards, the AePF9 representatives from ASPBAE and EAEA reflected together with DVV international on the experience. there was consensus that the joint commitment to these processes of cooperation between the two continents of Asia and europe is important and should continue. It creates an additional advocacy arena in these regions and countries, and connects them to the global arenas. A number of very concrete steps were agreed upon which shall now be further explored within ASPBAE as well as EAEA.

Looking far ahead: the next meeting, AEPF10, which should be held in europe two years from now, will be a very good opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved.


Asia – Europe People’s Forum 9, Vientiane, Laos 16–19 October 2012
Source: Heribert Hinzen




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