Regional CONFINTEA VII consultation underscores the importance of adult learning and education in the Arab States


7 April 2021

Adult learning and education (ALE) is key to future development in the Arab States: that was the main message of over 200 participants during regional consultations in preparation for the upcoming seventh International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VII). The consultations, hosted by the UNESCO Beirut Office in cooperation with the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) on 17 and 24 March, brought together representatives of civil society organizations, academia and government officials. The regional outcomes will feed into CONFINTEA VII, which will take place in 2022.

Conference participants looked at challenges to ALE in the Arab States and innovative approaches to solving them, and presented bold recommendations for developing policies and practices that respond to the needs to youth and adults across the region.

Further enhancing literacy levels of the population, and in particular for women, remains a priority in the Arab region to fully realize the potential of ALE. The need to reaffirm political will to advance ALE in the region was exacerbated by the pandemic, participants noted, as many Arab countries had to reduce investment in adult learning to meet emergency priorities for health and social protection. Participants also indicated that the pandemic highlighted the need to introduce innovative approaches, especially the use of information and communication technologies (ICT), in ALE programmes in order to promote the inclusive and equitable participation of adults.

Moreover, consultation participants acknowledged ALE as a key instrument for reducing unemployment, narrowing the gender gap in learning, and strengthening active citizenship and social cohesion, thereby promoting peace in the region. This will only be possible, they noted, if a broader vision concept of ALE is adopted, one in which adult learning and education is recognized as an instrument to equip learners with new skills that go beyond reading and writing.

Some of the priorities and recommendations to come out of the regional consultations include the need to:

  • invest in further legislative frameworks and comprehensive policies to strengthen the position of ALE and prioritize it;
  • increase efforts to raise the literacy levels of adults and equip learners with skills for the twenty-first century;
  • strengthen partnerships among ALE stakeholders, in particular governmental institutions and civil society organizations, and forge new partnerships with the private sector and the media;
  • expand and improve sustainable funding mechanisms for ALE;
  • invest in innovative open and distance education programmes that correspond to the needs of learners, particularly vulnerable and marginalized groups, including women;
  • improve the quality of adult education programmes, expanding access to all learners (men and women) to ensure equal learning opportunities for all;
  • invest in capacity development and the professionalization of educators;
  • reposition ALE within a lifelong learning perspective so as to include it in other areas of learning, such as citizenship education.

A report based on the discussions and outcomes of the consultations is in development and will be published soon.



17 March 2021

24 March 2021


The Kingdom of Morocco is set to host CONFINTEA VII, which will examine effective adult learning and education policies within a lifelong learning perspective and within the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Participants will jointly work on a new framework for action that will replace the Belém Framework for Action (BFA), adopted at CONFINTEA VI in 2009.

At CONFINTEA VII, UNESCO Member States will discuss how to accelerate progress in adult learning and education in order to reach SDG 4 by 2030. The integration of ALE in post-COVID-19 recovery plans as well as lines of actions to materialize recommendations by the International Commission on the Futures of Education pertaining to the area of adult learning and education will be on the agenda. The conference will provide the ground for participants to establish thriving partnerships in this regard.