From 15 to 17 June 2022, CONFINTEA VII brought together the global ALE community in Marrakech, Kingdom of Morocco. Since 1949, CONFINTEA (Conférence internationale sur l'éducation des adultes) has been held every twelve years under the aegis of UNESCO as a central global format for exchange and target-setting in the field of adult education. CONFINTEA VII in Marrakech – the first held on the African continent – was substantially hampered in its preparation process by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was therefore seen as a success that several hundred delegates were able to meet in Marrakech, representing the majority of the UNESCO member states. For youth activists, the private sector and civil society many fora took place to prepare for the main event. The Civil Society Forum was organised by the International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) and adopted a meaningful civil society declaration, covering the main demands of the constituencies represented.
The CONFINTEA process
When assessing the results and their relevance for national and global work, it is important to look at what UNESCO calls the “CONFINTEA process”, i.e. the period of almost two years before the actual conference. For DVV International, the key event was the – virtually conducted – Regional and Sub-Regional Preparatory Conference for Europe and North America, which took place in 2021. They provided a unique opportunity to reflect regionally and feed the main outcomes into the global process. The preparatory meetings helped to make the Marrakech conference a bottom-up event.
In Marrakech, as members of the German delegation, DVV International was represented by Christoph Jost, Head of DVV International, and Uwe Gartenschlaeger, Deputy Head of DVV International. The adult education networks had already succeeded in integrating many concerns into the draft of the final document, the “Marrakech Framework for Action” (MFA), and also succeeded in achieving further improvements on the ground through intensive lobbying, e.g. concerning a benchmark for participation.
The MFA: milestone and challenge
A first analysis of the MFA by DVV international highlights the following points as major outcomes to work with in the future:
First and foremost, ALE is seen as a powerful actor enabling people to understand, master and shape the multiple transformations our societies and our planet are facing. This fundamental belief is already reflected in the title of the MFA – Marrakech Framework for Action: The transformational power of adult learning and education.
In the text, adult education is defined as an indispensable part of an education system oriented towards lifelong learning. This includes the clarification of terminology because, unfortunately, lifelong learning and adult learning and education (ALE) are increasingly being used interchangeably. In contrast, the MFA underscores that ALE is a field of action on its own (§9). The Framework also stresses that adult education is crucial for achieving the SDGs (§§30, 40). It emphasizes the fundamental importance of basic education for social participation (§16). Basic education is broadly defined and it includes digital education as a highly significant issue.
The MFA also strongly emphasizes the role of adult education in coping with complex transformation processes, especially in the areas of digital transformation, ecological transformation and changes in the world of work (§§1 17, 18, 19).
Furthermore, the MFA stresses that the success of ALE depends on its institutional and organizational further development. A separate, independent system of adult education has to be created or expanded, with solid institutions, especially at the municipal level. A modern system of recognition of competences has to be established as well. (§§23-25).
Last but not least, the MFA is the first global agreement to mention benchmarks for annual participation in adult learning (§ 32). From a global perspective, this is another important outcome. All in all, the decisions taken in Marrakech are highly promising for our work. It will be our task now to garner these results and make maximum use of them in our advocacy.