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1 December 2009

Adult Education conference seeks to make lifelong learning a reality for all

Belem, Brazil, 1 December - “Today, we are here to demonstrate the power of adult learning and education to ensure a viable future for all.  Our goal over the next four days is to take forward the agenda of adult learning and education by securing stronger political recognition of its critical importance for development and agreeing on concrete recommendations to increase its scope and reach,”  said Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, at the opening session of the Sixth International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VI) in Belem, Brazil on 1 December.   

The conference is attended by 1500 participants, including representatives from over 156 Member States of UNESCO, along with other partners from the United Nations, bilateral and multilateral organizations, civil society and the private sector, as well as adult learners from all over the world. It seeks to  highlight the central role played by adult learning and education in international education and development programmes, especially those concerned with sustainable development.

On the first day of the Conference, delegates heard addresses by Fernando Haddad, Brazil’s Minister of Education, Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, Alpha Oumar Konaré, former President of Mali and Founder of the Foundation Mouvement pour les États-Unis d’Afrique (Movement for a United States of Africa), Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, UNESCO’s Special Envoy on Literacy for Development, Walter Hirche, President of the German UNESCO Commission and Ana Júlia Capera, Governor of Pará.

Brazil’s Minister of Education, Fernando Haddad, who was elected President of the CONFINTEA VI Conference in honour of the Host Country, underscored
an urgent need for the provision of good quality education, especially in the current climate of economic crisis.  He said:  “Sustainable economic development depends on sustainable human development,” adding that the two issues needed to be discussed together.

Mali’s former President, Alpha Oumar Konaré, called for new approaches to funding education and gave a plea for a regional education strategy for Africa saying that “illiteracy can only be resolved in the context of endogenous development”.  Mr. Konaré was critical of official development agencies saying that “institutions needed to engage in self-criticism and carry out a thorough assessment of past mistakes.”

Princess Laurentien addressed the question of ‘How to achieve real progress?’  She said that in order to increase the impact of adult education, literacy, which goes to the heart of all issues, should be made everyone’s priority:  “It is more urgent than ever before that literacy for children, young people and adults is moved up the list of national priorities. […] By making learning and literacy everyone’s business, we will increase our chance of multiplying our impact.”

Mr Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in a video message to the Conference, made the case for adult learning and education as investments in our capabilities, and essential to development. Mr Jacques Delors, former President of
the Commission of the European Union, stated in a video message that lifelong learning, a means of securing fair and equal opportunities for all, should to be a central UNESCO
mandate.

Presented on the first day of the Conference were the Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE), which is based on a systematic analysis of 154 national reports, along with Regional Outcome documents.

GRALE shows that countries in all regions have put in place adult learning strategies and legislation. They have run literacy campaigns, forged new partnerships and made innovative use of information communication technologies. The Report also documents the variety and unevenness in recent developments in policy, governance and provision in adult education.  It shows that not many countries have specific policies in adult education, and the present funding level for adult education is way below the resources needed to allow the sector to deliver its potential. It shows that adult learning is chronically underfunded and tends to suffer from poor coordination among the various partners involved.  Low rates of participation and inequitable access remain key challenges.

The opening day of the conference also saw two plenary sessions – “Living and Learning for a Viable Future:  The Power of Adult Learning” and “Inclusion and Participation in Adult Education.”

The conference will continue through December 4th.

UNESCO Press Release No. 2009-143

Gallery

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Senator Maria Osmarina Marina Silva Vaz de Lima, CONFINTEA VI (Photo: UNESCO/Björn Otte)

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Ana Júlia Carepa, Adama Ouane, Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, CONFINTEA VI (Photo: UNESCO/Björn Otte)

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Press Conference CONFINTEA VI - Adama Ouane, Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, Irina Bokova (Photo: UNESCO/Björn Otte)

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Fernando Haddad, CONFINTEA VI (Photo: UNESCO/Björn Otte)

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Walter Hirche, Adama Ouane, CONFINTEA VI (Photo: UNESCO/Björn Otte)

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Ana Júlia Carepa, State Governor Pará, CONFINTEA VI (Photo: UNESCO/Björn Otte)

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Opening Address to CONFINTEA VI: HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands (Photo: UNESCO/Björn Otte)

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Opening Address to CONFINTEA VI: Alpha Oumar Konaré, Former President of Mali (Photo: UNESCO/Björn Otte)

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Opening Address to CONFINTEA VI: Alpha Oumar Konaré, Former President of Mali (Photo: UNESCO/Björn Otte)

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Maria Khan, CONFINTEA VI (Photo: UNESCO/Björn Otte)

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Matarr Baldeh, CONFINTEA VI (Photo: UNESCO/Björn Otte)

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National Delegations to CONFINTEA VI (Photo: UNESCO/Björn Otte)

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CONFINTEA VI Opening 1 December 2009 (Photo: UNESCO/Björn Otte)

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HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, CONFINTEA VI (Photo: UNESCO/Björn Otte)

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CONFINTEA VI Opening 1 December 2009 (Photo: UNESCO/Björn Otte)

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Walter Hirche, President, German Commission for UNESCO, CONFINTEA VI (Photo: UNESCO/Björn Otte)

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Registration to CONFINTEA VI (Photo: UNESCO/Björn Otte)