This statement grew out of a need recognised by adult and higher educators, scholars and specialists in the area of adult and lifelong learning to build on previous work focusing on transforming institutions of higher education into institutions of lifelong learning.

It continues the work begun at the Fifth International Conference on Adult Education in Hamburg, Germany, 1997, continued at the University of Mumbai, India in 1998, and the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education in Paris in 1998.

It was developed at the conference on Lifelong Learning, Higher Education and Active Citizenship from the 10 - 12 October 2000 in Cape Town which was co-hosted by University of Western Cape, UNESCO Institute for Education and the Adult Education Research Group of the Danish National University of Education.

Download: The Cape Town Statement on Characteristic Elements of a Lifelong Learning Higher Education Institution, January 2001 (PDF 159 KB)

The aim of this report commissioned by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) is to test and apply our approach and the normative model in Brazil, Burkina Faso and Uganda. The three countries are multilingual in various degrees, and differ in terms of educational development, literate environment and socio-economic development.

Download: The Costs and the funding of non formal literacy programmes in Brazil, Burkina Faso and Uganda (PDF 568 kb)


We, from all regions of the world, university-based adult educators, scholars and other specialists in the field of lifelong learning together with representatives of non-governmental organizations having begun working at the UNESCO International Conference on Adult Education in Hamburg, Germany, July 14-18, 1997, and now meeting at the Department of Adult and Continuing Education and Extension of the University of Mumbai in Mumbai, India April 21-23, 1998 in order to prepare for the World Conference on Higher Education: Higher Education in the 21st Century in Paris, in October of 1998, 

Recalling the words of the Hamburg Declaration of July, 1997 of the UNESCO International Conference on Adult Education,

Adult education thus becomes more than a right; it is a key to the twenty-first century. It is both a consequence of active citizenship and a condition for full participation in society. It is a powerful concept for fostering ecologically sustainable development, for promoting democracy, justice, gender equity, and scientific, social and economic development, and for building a world in which violent conflict is replaced by dialogue and a culture of peace based on justice. Adult learning can shape the identity and give meaning to life. Learning throughout life implies rethinking of content to reflect such factors as age, gender equality, disability, language, culture and economic disparities.

Download: The Mumbai statement on lifelong learning, active citizenship and the reform of higher education (PDF 115 MB)

This Executive Summary provides the key messages espoused in the report, offering an overview of the development of adult learning and education in the world’, Arne Carlsen, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning.

The third Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE III) takes a holistic approach to education and lifelong learning to support countries in achieving the goals set in in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. With its title The Impact of Adult Learning and Education on Health and Well-Being; Employment and the Labour Market; and Social, Civic and Community Life., the report aims to guide policymakers and practitioners in how to devise programmes, policies and frameworks in adult learning and education (ALE) which fit their respective contexts. It also shares lessons from the two previous monitoring reports published since 2009 (GRALE I and GRALE II) and considers the implications for ALE in all the five main areas of action outlined in the Belém Framework for Action, namely: policy; governance; financing; participation, inclusion and equity; and quality.


Third Global Report on Adult Learning and Education – Key Messages and Executive Summary (PDF, 2.5 MB)
Third Global Report on Adult Learning and Education – Key Messages and Executive Summary (Chinese) (PDF, 0.9 MB)
Third Global Report on Adult Learning and Education – Key Messages and Executive Summary (Russian) (PDF, 0.4 MB)
Third Global Report on Adult Learning and Education – Key Messages and Executive Summary (Arabic) (PDF, 2.7 MB)
Third Global Report on Adult Learning and Education – Key Messages and Executive Summary (Portuguese) (PDF, 0.3 MB)
Third Global Report on Adult Learning and Education – Key Messages and Executive Summary (Hindi) (PDF, 0.5 MB)

Youth and adult education (Educación de Personas Jóvenes y Adultas – EPJA) is frequently given a low priority on governmental agendas, which are sometimes forced to prioritize scarce resources and thus limit their areas of action to the standard education system. Nonetheless, increasing efforts are being made to provide educational opportunities to those who, earlier on in their lives, were unable to integrate successfully into the education system, and these efforts are being spearheaded not only by ministries of education, but also by a variety of institutions who have long been active in the field of youth and adult education.

Download: La Educación de jóvenes y adultos en América Latina y el Caribe: hacia un estado del arte; informe regional de América Latina y el Caribe para la Conferencia de Seguimiento a CONFINTEA V, Bangkok, septiembre de 2003 (Towards a State of the Art of Adult and Youth Education in Latin America and the Caribbean: Regional Latin American Report for the CONFINTEA Mid-Term Review Conference, Bangkok, September 2003) (PDF 1.56 MB)

UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), located in Hamburg, Germany, is one of UNESCO’s key education-related institutes and is the only organizational unit in the UN family that holds a global mandate for lifelong learning. Taking a holistic and integrated, inter-sectoral and cross-sectoral approach to lifelong learning as the guiding paradigm for 21st century education, UIL promotes and supports lifelong learning with a focus on adult learning, continuing education, literacy and non-formal basic education. Its activities place particular emphasis on furthering educational equity for disadvantaged groups and in the countries most afflicted by poverty and conflict.


UIL Medium-Term Strategy (2014-2021): Laying Foundations for Equitable Lifelong Learning for All (PDF 792 KB)

In 2016, UIL’s work focused on the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) and its related targets, as set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Education 2030 Framework for Action.

UIL’s efforts to advance this agenda in 2016 included the production of the 3rd Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE III), which focused on the impact of adult learning and education (ALE) on health and well-being; employment and the labour market; and social, civic and community life. Another key contributor to this agenda was the Recommendation on Adult Learning and Education (RALE) 2015, published by UNESCO in 2016, which replaced the 1976 Recommendation on the Development of Adult Education.

UIL is working with local governments in cities, towns and villages to promote lifelong learning for inclusive and sustainable development, chiefly through the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC), the secretariat of which is based at UIL.

The year was remarkable also for the establishment of the Global Alliance for Literacy within the Framework of Lifelong Learning (GAL). Another important initiative of UIL, the Action Research: Measuring Literacy Programme Participants’ Learning Outcomes project, commonly known by its French acronym RAMAA (Recherche-action sur la mesure des apprentissages des bénéficiaires des programmes d’alphabétisation), expanded from 5 French-speaking African countries to 12 in 2016. With both GAL and RAMAA, UIL expects to further its support for Member States to meet SDG 4.6: ‘By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy.’


UIL Annual Report 2016 (PDF, 5,5MB)

The UNESCO GNLC’s Guiding Documents explain the concept and describe the role of learning cities in sustainable development. These learning cities’ documents consist of the Beijing Declaration on Building Learning Cities and the Key Features of Learning Cities, which were adopted at the 1st International Conference on Learning Cities in 2013. The Beijing Declaration, outlines the role of lifelong learning in promoting inclusion, prosperity and sustainability in cities and makes a commitment to twelve actions for developing learning cities. The Key Features of Learning Cities provides an overall framework of key features of learning cities and a comprehensive checklist of action points to enhance and measure the progress of learning cities. The Guiding Documents are available for download in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

The UNESCO Guidelines for the Recognition, Validation and Accreditation of the Outcomes of Non-formal and Informal Learning were developed to facilitate recognition, validation and accreditation (RVA) of all learning outcomes, particularly those of non-formal and informal learning. UNESCO Member States also committed themselves to establishing recognition frameworks to develop and improve RVA principles and mechanisms.

The UNESCO Guidelines define the key areas of action at national level in terms of:

  1. establishing RVA as a key component of a national lifelong learning strategy;
  2. developing RVA systems that are accessible to all;                                                                 
  3. making RVA integral to education and training systems;
  4. creating a coordinated national structure involving all stakeholders;
  5. strengthening the capacities of RVA personnel;
  6. designing sustainable funding mechanisms.

These core principles and action areas provide a template to identify the critical factors in the implementation of the UNESCO Guidelines, as well as obstacles and difficulties that need to be addressed to ensure RVA is successful. They also present a strategic direction for public policy planning with regard to RVA.


UNESCO Guidelines on the Recognition, Validation and Accreditation of the Outcomes of Non-formal and Informal Learning (PDF 0.1 MB)

The 38th UNESCO General Conference adopted a new Recommendation on Adult Learning and Education, 2015. This Recommendation supersedes the 1976 Recommendation on the Development of Adult Education and is, therefore, the most up-to-date normative instrument in this important policy area.

It calls upon Member States to take action in the areas already defined in the Belém Framework for Action (BFA) – i.e. policy, governance, finance, participation, inclusion and equity, and quality – while building on the potentials of information and communication technologies. This Recommendation draws on the concept of lifelong learning, and underlines the overarching aim of adult learning and education, which is to ensure that all adults participate in society and in the world of work. It also takes into account the three key domains of adult learning and education: literacy and basic skills; continuing education, training and professional development; and education and learning opportunities with a view to promoting active citizenship (variously known as ‘community’, ‘popular’ or ‘liberal’ education), i.e. education measures that empower people to engage with a wide range of social issues.

Member States should now implement the Recommendation and further strengthen international cooperation with regard to ALE. The CONFINTEA process, which involves regular reporting in the form of the Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE), will be instrumental in monitoring activities undertaken by Member States to implement the Recommendation.


UNESCO Recommendation on Adult Learning and Education, 2015 (PDF 0,1 MB)