We are counting on you! Reflections on the CONFINTEA VII Regional Processes

All the CONFINTEA VII Sub-regional Consultations and Regional Preparatory Meetings, a process that began in January and ended in September 2021, have been completed.

This involved a total of 17 meetings: four sub-regional meetings in Africa, two regional meetings in the Arab States, five sub-regional and one regional consultation in Asia-Pacific, and one meeting each in Europe, Canada, America, the Caribbean and Latin America. We are proud to say that ICAE together with our regional members were able to attend 16 out of the 17 meetings. We only missed the East and North-East Asia sub-regional meeting, which was the first one that was called in early January 2021. Even our members in Japan were not aware of this, hence also unable to attend. These are only counting the official CONFINTEA VII meetings. We are aware that in some regions, there were extensive preparatory workshops conducted by our members before each of the sub-regional and regional meetings. So, let me thank each one of you who took the time to organise, participate and advocate during each of these meetings. Mobilising ourselves is a testament to the strength and commitment of the ICAE network.

However, our work is just beginning.

According to UIL, the “sub-regional consultations and the regional preparatory conferences will provide localized perspectives and prepare the ground for the global conference in Morocco in 2022. Participants of the regional preparatory conferences will work to identify current key issues on adult learning and education in each region and suggest benchmarks and recommendations for CONFINTEA VII. These will take the form of outcome documents comprising central inputs that will be used to draft the framework for action to be adopted during CONFINTEA VII.” (UIL CONFINTEA VII website).

It is now time to harvest these localized perspectives to identify the current key issues on adult learning and education in each region, through the outcome documents, as these are what will shape the new Framework for Action. However, we are also very aware that the quality of the sub-regional and regional outcome documents will vary relative to the quality of engagement of civil society in the process of formulating these outcome documents.

We therefore invite you to access the respective sub-regional and regional outcome documents and critically examine how the issues you have raised as CSOs are included in these documents. We invite you to share your findings with us, so we can consolidate the identified gaps and find a way to include them in the preparation for CONFINTEA VII.

One current preparatory platform is the CONFINTEA VII Consultative Committee. ICAE, represented by Katarina Popovic and me, together with Helen Dabu from ASPBAE, Christoph Jost from DVV, and Timothy Ireland, representing the academe, are active members of this committee. The CONFINTEA VII Consultative Committee is responsible for “providing guidance and advice on preparation of CONFINTEA VIl”, more specifically in terms of the “conference design, content and other substantive matters.” (UIL Terms of Reference).

We have had two meetings of the Consultative Committee. While during the second meeting, UIL Director David Atchoarena emphasized UIL’s commitment to ensuring CSO participation at all stages of the process, we know from experience that the level and quality of CSO participation has varied from region to region. Some of you have shared your reflections with us and we invite others to contact us so we can learn from your own experiences.
 
Our initial experience with all the regional GRALE 5 preparatory meetings in 2020, was that while CSOs participated in the introductory session, we were not able to participate in the GRALE 5 survey orientation session. Nor were most of us able to identify who were responsible for the completion of the survey in our respective countries. We were informed that a total of 160 responses (similar to GRALE 4) were received and while a draft of the GRALE 5 will be made available for experts to review, the request for CSOs to view the draft was declined during the second meeting of the Consultative Committee on 1st October.

Therefore, our task is not over.

As ICAE, we need to ensure that CSO perspectives and experiences are in the outcome documents that will shape the new Framework for Action. As ICAE, we need to ensure that CSOs are part of the process of drafting and reviewing the new Framework for Action. As ICAE, we will continue to draw on your commitment and contributions to allow us to effectively engage with the remaining processes in the lead up to CONFINTEA VII, which we expect will be a hybrid (online and face-to-face) conference in June 2022. As ICAE, we shall use the vehicle of the we-are-ale Campaign to drive our advocacy agenda in the lead up to CONFINTEA VII.

We will assert that our participation as CSOs is essential if we are to effectively work together with governments, the private sector and local communities to achieve quality adult learning and education for all, as we committed to, as part of SDG 4.
This commitment must express itself before, during and after CONFINTEA VII.

We count on your support. (Robbie Guevara, ICAE President)

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