Not just on International Literacy Day … but every day (Message from ICAE President Robbie Guevara)

On International Literacy Day, we in the ICAE call on our members to affirm the commitment we made at CONFINTEA VII to …

“… the vision of literacy as a continuum of learning and competency levels as a foundation for adult learning and education. We commit to strengthen considerably our efforts to implement related policies accordingly and to meeting the SDG 4.6 targets. This involves establishing comprehensive and evidence-based gender-transformative, cross-sectoral and inclusive literacy policies and implementation strategies.” (MFA 2022)

We specifically call attention to the continuing need to ensure …

“… a special focus on women (above all in literacy initiatives, since there are still 770 million illiterate adult people in the world of whom 3/5 are women) and addressing systemic issues of power relations and oppressive cultures for women in various curricula and educational settings.” (ICAE 2022, Declaration of the Civil Society Forum, Marrakech)

To contribute to achieving this commitment to literacies as a continuum and specifically to women’s literacy, the ICAE has organized the 10th International Academy of Lifelong Learning Advocacy (IALLA) in November 2022. The aims and the thematic focus of the 10th IALLA is to develop the capacities of our members to advance and advocate for the right of all women to literacy, the right to greater access and participation in adult learning opportunities, and the assurance of sustained funding of adult learning programs that address the urgent needs of women. We cannot achieve any of the SDGs, without educating women.

Indeed, as we approach the halfway mark for the SDGs, we are reminded of the urgency to recognise and address the massive detrimental impact that the pandemic has had on any hope of achieving lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030. It is this urgent task that has motivated the UN Secretary General to convene the UN Transforming Education Summit (TES) alongside the 77th session of the UN General Assembly from 16, 17 and 19 September 2022, with the aim of elevating education at the top of the global political agenda. There are three pillars that were identified as intersecting work areas that would assist in achieving the goals of the summit. The first is the five Thematic Action Tracks that require urgent attention and action; the second is the National Consultations, where each country is expected to prepare a National Statement to be delivered as part of the Summit, and the third is public engagement and mobilisation to contribute to the aim of transforming education.  

Despite the commitment made in Marrakech that the outcomes of CONFINTEA VII will feature prominently in TES, colleagues involved in adult learning and education have found it difficult to carve out a space for ALE within the three pillars identified. It was mainly in Thematic Action Track 3: Learning and skills for life, work, and sustainable development where we found opportunities to advocate for the commitments made in CONFINTEA VII. My own experience in Australia has been an uphill climb to ensure that the statement prepared by the education-related NGOs would be inclusive enough to recognise the commitment of SDG 4 to lifelong learning, not just schooling and the education of children. It was a similar struggle with the call for contributions to the draft Australian National Statement, which to date, we still have not seen.

On reflection, what we found to be very useful in preparing our responses to the opportunities for public engagement were the two outcomes of CONFINTEA VII that I quoted earlier, specifically the Declaration of the Civil Society Forum and the Marrakech Framework for Action. While not many of us from civil society will be in New York, we encourage you to try to find out who from your country or networks will be attending, tell them about the MFA and the CSF Declaration, and follow the proceedings via the United Nations Web TV (

This reflection has reminded me that if we are to give life to the principles and action commitments contained in these two documents, we in the ICAE, together with our members need to study them, commit to disseminate them, but more importantly actively advocate for them, not just during International Literacy Day, not just during the UN Transforming Education Summit, not even just during Adult Learners Week (which is happening in a number countries in September), but every day as part of our own work as ALE advocates, activists and educators.

We in the ICAE commit to supporting, assisting, and working with you to do this.

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