The Pan-European Conference, hosted by the Government of Hungary from 3 to 5 December 2008 in Budapest, was the Regional conference for Europe, North-America and Israel in preparation of the Sixth International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VI). Altogether, five Regional preparatory conferences are organized by UNESCO between September 2008 and January 2009. Each produces a policy document, contributes to a regional report on adult learning and education and generates critical input to the global conference in 2009.
CONFINTEA VI, which will be hosted by Brazil in Belém from 19 to 22 May 2009, seeks to regenerate the international momentum for adult learning and education. The overall thrust of CONFINTEA VI will be to draw attention to the relation and contribution of adult learning and education to sustainable development, conceived comprehensively as including social, economic, ecological and cultural dimensions. The themes to be explored at CONFINTEA VI will include: policies, structures and financing for adult learning and education; factors conducive to inclusion and participation in adult learning and education; the quality of adult learning and education; literacy and other key competencies; and the role of adult learning and education for critical citizenship and the eradication of poverty. These themes are also taken up in all the regional preparatory conferences, with variations according to the specific regional context.
A final policy document will be adopted at CONFINTEA VI, incorporating strategies, recommendations and tools to mirror the increasing relevance of adult learning and education and to ensure the further development, implementation and monitoring of policies and practice at global level. The Regional Conference Documents produced at the Regional Conferences constitute the regional input to the global document to be adopted at CONFINTEA VI. Hence, the regional conferences have been highly critical in building consensus and legitimacy towards the recommendations included in the global document.
Relevance of Adult Learning and Education in the Region
In a context marked by continuous social and political changes and growing complexity, adult education and learning has assumed a critical importance within lifelong learning and constitutes a key resource and indispensable tool for enabling people to participate fully in their societies and to take responsibility for their own lives.
Given the challenges created by increasing voluntary and forced mobility within and across borders, and confronted with demographic changes, and presenting poverty and exclusion, the social and human capital built up by adult learning and education is of vital importance in the region to create more equitable, democratic and inclusive societies.
Indeed, new legislation, policy changes and the establishment of national qualification frameworks in several countries of the region have manifested an increasing recognition for the economic, social and individual benefits of adult learning and education. Several high level documents of the European Union, incorporating more than half of the countries in the Region, testify to this trend. The Communication on Adult Learning issued by the European Commission in 2006 highlighted the essential contribution of adult learning and education to employability and mobility in modern labour markets and to social inclusion. Subsequently earlier in 2008, the Council of the European Union called upon its Member States to “remove barriers to participation, to increase overall quality and efficiency in adult learning, to speed up the process of validation and recognition and to ensure sufficient investment in and monitoring of the field.”
However, much scope remains to improve policies, governance and delivery mechanisms in adult learning and education the region. A realistic assessment of the literacy situation, the professionalization of adult educators, appropriate funding and the acknowledgment of the right to adult education are among the priority themes to be addressed.
Focus and Objectives of the Regional Conference
Against this background, the Regional Conference in Budapest had the overall objective to prepare the ground from a regional perspective for the global CONFINTEA VI Conference, by generating the key issues, challenges and forward-looking strategies to renew policies and action in adult learning and education. The issues, challenges and strategies were supposed to reflect the concerns of the region and position it within the global context. The Conference also served as a forum to present and disseminate relevant practices and innovations.
A regional synthesis report, prepared on the basis of national reports from Member States, was presented, discussed and validated during the Conference. This report was finalized after the Conference, incorporating the discussions and proposals made. It will be presented at the global CONFINTEA VI Conference in Brazil in May 2009.
Concretely, the Conference aimed to:
· discuss key issues, trends and challenges in adult learning and education in the region;
· present and disseminate effective practices and innovations;
· develop strategic policy proposals and recommendations to further develop adult learning and education;
· reflect on and suggest tools and benchmarks for the implementation and monitoring of policies in adult learning and education; and
· amend and validate the regional synthesis report (prepared on the basis of national reports).
The main outputs of the Conference are:
· A concise set of policy proposals, recommendations and benchmarks for renewed policies and action in adult learning and education in the region, adopted at the end of the Conference, which will inform and help to develop the global document to be adopted at CONFINTEA VI;
· A consolidated Pan-European Regional Report on Adult Learning and Education to be published as an independent publication and to be presented at CONFINTEA VI.
Each Member State in the Pan-European region was invited to send a delegation of up to twelve persons. Bearing in mind the wide-ranging nature of adult learning and education, the composition of the delegation were expected to:
§ be multi-sectoral (encompassing representatives of education, social development, health, and labour); and
§ represent different categories of partners: government agencies, non-government and civil society organisations, research communities, the corporate sector, and social partners.
Representatives of the following organisations were invited as observers:
· United Nations (UN) organizations and specialized agencies;
· intergovernmental organisations operating in Europe, North America and Israel;
· development banks;
· foundations, bilateral development partners and other similar institutions;
· international non-governmental organizations and networks operating at regional and sub-regional levels in the region;
· stakeholders from the private and corporate sectors; and
· selected individual experts and resource persons.
Hungary as the host country provided free accommodation for a group of selected countries from Eastern Europe and central Asia.
Dates and Venue of the Conference
The conference was held from 3 to 5 December 2008 at the Hotel Danubius Helia in Budapest.
The draft regional synthesis report and the provisional programme of the conference was distributed to the participants by e-mail before the conference. National reports, presentations and other documents prepared by the participants were distributed in a CD-ROM.
All these documents and presentation files are available here, and on the CONFINTEA website at UNESCO.
The working languages of the conference were English and French. Simultaneous interpretation was provided in these two languages.