UNESCO has organised the CONFINTEA series of international meetings, which take place every 12 - 13 years, since the late 1940s (Denmark in 1949, Canada 1960, Japan 1972 and France 1985, Germany 1997). The German conference, CONFINTEA V, marked a turning point in the global recognition of and commitment to adult learning and non-formal education.

It called attention to adult learning and non-formal education as indispensable elements of lifelong learning. Adopting two landmark documents at the end of the Conference, the delegates emphasized that adult and lifelong learning were key tools in addressing the global challenges of the 21st century in relation to democracy, peace and human rights, respect for diversity and conflict resolution, economic and ecological sustainability and workforce development.

This holistic understanding of adult learning and non-formal education established by CONFINTEA V is the ground upon which CONFINTEA VI will build. It will strengthen the recognition of adult learning and non-formal education within the perspective of life-wide and lifelong learning. The comprehensive agenda will be inclusive of the diversity and range of existing adult and non-formal learning forms, modes, places and themes. However, the overarching goal of CONFINTEA VI will be the harmonisation of adult learning and non-formal education with other international education and development agendas (EFA, UNLD, LIFE, MDGs) and the integration of adult learning and non-formal education within national sector-wide strategies. The Brazil conference will also assess how commitments made in 1997 have been implemented and, most importantly, it will produce the tools (e.g. benchmarks) to ensure that previous and current commitments on adult learning and non-formal education are put in place, in order to move from theory to action.

The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), has been coordinating the preparatory process leading to CONFINTEA VI, in close cooperation with UNESCO Headquarters, UNESCO Regional Bureaux and the Ministry of Education in the CONFINTEA VI Host Country, Brazil. UIL is supported by the CONFINTEA VI Consultative Group, an advisory group of experts in adult and non-formal education, which is guiding the conceptual preparation of the conference. Following established procedures, the preparatory process includes national reports and regional review meetings, as well as reviews and consultations on specific themes. Central to the process will be the development of internationally applicable and adaptable benchmarks in adult learning and non-formal education, which will be steered by a small international core group under the coordination of UIL.