Another six months have passed, and it is time for a new edition of Adult Education and Development. Six months without a major event like CONFINTEA VI,which took place at the end of 2010 in Belém and held us all in thrall for nearly two years with the organization and implementation of preparatory conferences, the writing of regional and country reports, and the design of strategies to elicit political commitments so as to secure our field of work in the coming years. Six months without even such smaller-scale events as the ICAE General Assembly, or DVV’s 13th Adult Education Conference, which also require intensive preparation, organization, and documentation.
It is true that some of us were extensively involved with advocating the case of sustainability and new life paradigms at the seventeenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 17), an event which took place from 28 November to 9 December 2011 in Durban, South Africa. And many of us travelled to Porto Alegre for yet another World Social Forum, this time to focus on the topic Capitalist Crisis – Social and Environmental Justice, with a view toward the next major world summit, Rio+20, in June of this year.
But for the most part, the past six months have been a quieter time. This is just as well, for it has allowed greater concentration on the organization and implementa- tion of our projects and programmes. These activities, namely, are precisely the work around which all our conferences and major events revolve – the day-to-day work with learners and communities. This is the work that the conferences seek to strengthen and support. And it is here where a number of new developments have been emerging that we want to take a closer look at in this and the forthcoming issues of AED.
One such topic is South-South cooperation, a practice which is coming increas- ingly to complement and even displace the traditional paradigm of international cooperation. Until recently, it was more the experts from the North who sought to help beneficiaries from the South – frequently without adequate understanding of the culture, the values and the real needs of their Southern partners. Now, however, partners from countries with basically similar conditions and requirements are com- bining their interests and pursuing common goals on equal footing by identifying the problems that they share, and joining forces to tackle them.
Another topic is the benefits of Adult Education. We adult educators must learn to improve our skills in presenting what we do if we do not wish to constantly be pushed into the background of the educational debate. Again and again we have witnessed how preferential treatment in educational policies is given to basic school education and vocational education and training, not to mention university level education. Moreover, there is no clear consolation in the growing significance of Lifelong Learning, considering that Adult Education runs the risk of becoming lost as a discipline in its own right in this all-encompassing term. And yet, again and again we see how Adult Education does have answers to so many questions of prime importance, and that it can deliver responses in flexible, creative and par- ticipative ways, together with the people who need them.
Big events cast their shadows before. Rio+20 will be dealing with one of the most crucial issues facing us today: the survival of our planet. Life on earth is jeopard- ized as a result of a system that prioritizes economic growth and accumulation of wealth at the expense of human, social, and environmental rights. With growing insistence, the world’s social movements – Adult Education included – are calling for new models of sustainable existence and development, models that prioritize values such as empathy, solidarity, and inclusion – concepts such as sumak kawsay, “living well”, that has always been so cherished by the indigenous peoples of Latin America.
As is always the case in major catastrophes, it is the poorest who suffer first and most. Ecological disasters are no exception to this rule. It is therefore obvious that sustainable development, environmental protection, and ecological living are central to Adult Education. We will be picking up on these themes in our next issue of Adult Education and Development. We plan to look at the political debate and what civil society has to contribute to the discussions and demands in negotiations at Rio+20. But we also want to present cases that demonstrate how Adult Educa- tion is dealing with environmental issues in practice together with the communities in which it works. Accordingly, we cordially invite you to share your experiences.
AED needs the active cooperation of its readers and partners. In putting together this issue, I was fortunate enough to be able to count on help from many people to whom I extend my sincere gratitude. Special appreciation goes to Maria Lourdes Khan from the Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education ( ASPBAE), Nélida Céspedes from the Latin American Association for Adult Edu- cation (CEAAL), and Rajesh Tandon from the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA). They made many helpful proposals for topics and facilitated contact with the authors of articles that you will be able to read in this edition.
I would also like to thank every member of the editorial committee of Adult Education and Development for their very constructive and helpful suggestions and advice.