paper presented at the ESREA triannual conference, Berlin, 4-7 September 2013
Since World Word II the work by inter-states organizations created a shift in social imaginaries on the relation between education, work and the socio-economic development of nation-states (Milana 2012). These imaginaries materialized in a ‘global polity’ (Corry 2010), namely the mobilization of a set of social actors towards the governance of a common object. This object (here adult education) is made the explicit subject of political action based on de-territorialized norms. An exemplary case is the Belèm Framework for Action (2009), which consolidated version was adopted by the VI International Conference on Adult Education, held in 2009 in Belèm (Brazil), under the auspicious of Unesco (hereafter Confintea VI). The Belèm Framework for Action lays out prescriptive activities to be implemented at either national or international levels, within five areas: adult literacy, learners’ participation, quality of provision, governmental policy and global governance. In so doing, it focuses attention on the development of comparable statistical indicators, benchmarks and monitoring mechanisms for member states, developmental and aid agencies, and Unesco to examine systematic progress. In particular, member states commit their intentions towards the establishment of regular monitoring mechanisms, including data collection, and the production of a triennial report on national progress; while the Unesco receives the mandate to coordinate the monitoring of progress at global level, and to produce a monitoring report, the Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (UIL 2009, 2012), on a triennial bases. The Belèm Framework for Action is the result of mobilization processes that have slowly but steadily occurred over time under the auspicious of Unesco, also thanks to the International Conferences on Adult Education, organized every 12 years, since 1949. These conferences, funded by member states, gather representatives from governments, the academia, and other national and international entities, including non-governmental organizations, and represent a second level of political decision making within Unesco (the first level being the annual Executive Board and General Conference sessions), at least at the level of intentions, as no international legal instrument exists to-date that binds states to undertake specific action in the field of adult education within the territories under their exclusive sovereignty. Still at the level of intentions, over the years, these conferences have provided a forum for the setting of international norms for adult education policy and practices, norms that have found more or less appeal within national contexts, yet contributed to the transformation of adult education from a national policy matter into an issue of global governance, as testified by the Belèm Framework for Action. It is the scope of this paper to increase understandings of the working of global governance in adult education by examining the type of mobilization processes that occur via inter-actions between the Unesco and other political actors.