young girl reading at a desk

The first decade of the new century witnessed major international-level education commitments that were highly relevant to the work of UIE. In 2000, both the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Dakar Framework for Action were adopted by world leaders. With the latter, governments affirmed their commitment to the six Education for All (EFA) goals established 10 years prior in Jomtien, Thailand, during the World Conference on Education for All. The aim of the goals was to ensure quality basic education for all children, youth and adults by 2015 through, for example, increasing adult literacy by 50 per cent, promoting learning and life skills for young people and adults, and improving the quality of education.

The national governments, civil society groups and development agencies that met in Dakar, Senegal, to affirm their commitment to achieving the EFA also recommended that a ‘literacy decade’ be conducted under the auspices of the United Nations, and entrusted UNESCO with its overall coordination. As part of the UN Literacy Decade (UNLD 2003–2013), UIE coordinated the Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE), which was conceived as a 10–year (2006–2015) strategic framework through which national governments, NGOs, civil society, the private sector, UN agencies, and bilateral and multilateral agencies could collectively advance literacy efforts in 35 countries where illiteracy posed a critical challenge.

Guided by these overarching agendas, UIE worked as a UNESCO international centre for research, information and documentation on lifelong learning, with a particular focus on adult learning, out-of-school basic education, and literacy. In addition to the analyses of methods, policy approaches and socio-cultural contexts of education, and the development of related theoretical concepts, the mandate of UIE included collaboration in the development of national and local capacities in UNESCO Member States and the promotion of networks and partnerships. One of the major elements of UIE’s work was the initiation and coordination of cooperative research projects, including the organization of expert seminars, and participation and collaboration in a wide range of regional and international expert meetings and projects organized by partners.

Seminar in black and white