For four days from 1 to 4 December 2009, the Brazilian city of Belém will become the world capital of adult learning, bringing together ministers of education from over 100 countries, civil society organizations, providers, experts and learners.
This Sixth International Conference on Adult Education - CONFINTEA VI - is being held for the first time in the Southern Hemisphere, highlighting the global importance of lifelong learning. I would like to warmly welcome all participants and express my appreciation to the government of Brazil for hosting this event. CONFINTEA VI is the result of widespread consultation.
Five regional meetings have encouraged intensive dialogue on adult learning policies and challenges. National reports have been prepared by 154 countries, providing a valuable knowledge base. Their contents have been summarized into regional syntheses and one global report. Together these documents give us a timely snapshot of youth and adult learning across the world. They show that many countries have developed adult learning policies, conducted literacy campaigns and taken special measures to reach marginalized populations. But the sector remains chronically under-funded, provision is too limited and not responsive enough to the diversity of learners´ needs.
This Conference comes at a crucial time. Opportunities to learn throughout life are vitally important in today´s knowledge societies characterized by rapid change and integration. Adult education contributes to reducing poverty, and promoting citizenship, human rights and social justice. It is a crucial component of recovery from a crisis that has seen youth unemployment soar, especially among individuals with low skills.
Since 1949, CONFINTEA conferences have provided the only forum for global dialogue on adult learning and education. I am confident that we are coming to Belém in a spirit of cooperation and dialogue that will make this Conference a landmark occasion to mobilize political commitment and recommend actions to advance adults´ right to education worldwide. I look forward to seeing you in Belém.
Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO
(Confintea VI Bulletin)