CONFINTEA Last minute disappointment
At the UN Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA, held every 12 years) in Brazil in Decmeber 2009, some progress was made. Over 500 civil society representatives unanimously agreed a strong set of positions, and these were endorsed by over 35 governments. But some governments, notably the US and Canada, opposed any setting of targets or benchmarks, so the final "Belem Framework for Action" is not as strong as it could have been. Whilst a broad vision was agreed on and some urgent action was called for, especially to address the chronic underfunding of adult literacy, it will be hard to hold governments to account for delivering on these. There was also a lack of progress in respect of recognising adult education as a fundamental right.
In Hamburg (where the previous CONFINTEA meeting was held 12 years ago) there was discussion around adult education as a fundamental right, but the US were not there.
This time the US were present, pushing back on this language, frustrating civil society organisations' attempt to strengthen recognition of the justiciability of the right to education for adults and young people.
The final draft of the framework for action, agreed by the drafting committee at 2.30am, included a compromise: "the education of adults and young people is recognised as an essential part of the right to education". Action Aid, amongst others, fought hard for the inclusion of the language "recognised as".
However, in the final plenary the following morning, this language was bizarrely and unaacountably watered down to remove the words "recognised as".
There are concerns over the transparency with which this last minute change occurred and serious concerns that the language around the right to education has been diluted. The civil society position was clear and the caucus response to the final declaration highlights this:
"In the coming years there needs to be greater recognition of the enormous scale of the violation of the fundamental right to education of adults and young people. We need to move from recognising that basic adult education is a justiciable human right, to a point where governments pass legislation to make all adult education legally enforceable".