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Monitoring the Implementation of the Belém Framework for Action: International Expert Meeting at UIL, 25 – 27 January 2011

Twenty-seven governmental experts and heads of non-formal adult education departments and representatives of inter-governmental and civil society organizations from all world regions took part in an international meeting at UIL in January to discuss approaches and methods to monitor the implementation of the Belém Framework for Action. Given the technical nature of the meeting, specialists from all UNESCO regional bureaux and from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) complemented the group.

The meeting was an important element in UNESCO’s strategy to coordinate the monitoring of the recommendations spelled out in the Belém Framework. In advance, UIL had drafted an Overall Monitoring Strategy to establish an integrated approach to monitoring the implementation of the Belém Framework and general developments in adult education and lifelong learning. It was designed to embrace and create synergies with all ongoing or scheduled monitoring activities (whether national, regional or international – such as UNLD, EFA and the MDGs).

In the process of translating and breaking down the complex and overlapping recommendations of the Belém Framework, a Monitoring Matrix was derived as a technical tool.  This can be applied in implementing the key areas at operational level – and can subsequently serve as a global template, adjusted to the different contexts and levels required. Subsequently, core questions and indicative answers were added to pave the way for the development of indicators, as well as potential sources of information for the monitoring process.

Against this background, the first objective of the expert meeting was to scrutinize and amend these two documents, which had already been the subject of an international online consultation forum in October/November 2010. The meeting’s second objective was to discuss and develop a core set of common indicators which can be applied to a range of contexts. Third, the meeting was to propose additional areas of research necessary to track the implementation of the Belém Framework.

The meeting brought to light a number of experiences in inducing and monitoring progress in adult education nationally and cross-nationally, although most of them were not strictly framed within the follow-up to CONFINTEA VI. Important feedback helped to enrich the Monitoring Strategy, highlighting the need to clarify concepts further and to continue advocacy for adult education.

Two particular concerns put forward by participants confirmed UNESCO’s emphasis in the Monitoring Strategy and mirrored comments from the online consultation. First of all, national contexts and specificities must be taken into account, and ownership of the monitoring process must remain clearly at national level, even if the overall monitoring strategy is global in scope. Second, monitoring adult education in general and the Belém Framework in particular must be streamlined with other reporting processes, both internationally as well as nationally (and across ministries).
 
The meeting examined the potential of the Monitoring Matrix as a global template and reflected on possible international core indicators. It discussed national monitoring process and important questions to be asked in monitoring key areas of the Belém Framework (policy, governance, financing, participation and quality). Specific country contexts and regional priorities were given due consideration. These discussions produced very useful suggestions for the guidelines and questions that UNESCO will prepare for the first post-CONFINTEA national progress reports. It was acknowledged that a very clear and structured questionnaire would be crucial in guiding the reporting process.

As a major outcome, priorities were suggested for the next issues of the Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE), which will be UNESCO’s main instrument in giving a global account of the CONFINTEA follow-up process. The specific proposal is to focus on one thematic aspect in each forthcoming GRALE, in addition to a consistent  set of core questions on the overall development of adult education. A possible structure would be a division of GRALE into two parts: one with an overview on progress in key areas of the Belém Framework for Action, and the other focusing on a specific theme. For the next GRALE, anticipated for publication in 2012 and for which the national guidelines and reports will be prepared by the end of 2011, the focus proposed by the meeting is “adult literacy”.

Complementing the intense deliberations on the national reporting process with the help of guidelines, the meeting proposed some specific areas where in-depth research would be needed to generate the information which cannot be generated through national reports. The priority areas recommended for further research were around conceptual definitions, financing mechanisms, literacy and the recognition, validation, and accreditation of learning.

Although the meeting did not entirely achieve all of its objectives, it generated a range of valuable advice for UNESCO in monitoring the recommendations of the Belém Framework. UIL is now developing a set of preliminary guidelines for reporting on national progress, in close collaboration with UIS and the UNLD department at UNESCO Headquarters. These will be further discussed in the second meeting of the CONFINTEA VI Advisory Group that will take place in Mexico City, Mexico, on 28 May 2011.