ICAE responds to the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals


The 2030 United Nations' (UN) Agenda for Sustainable Development is finally here. The International Council for Adult Education (ICAE) is critical about the outcome document.

After lengthy, multilateral negotiations the final document was agreed on by the UN on August 1st 2015. It includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets with a view to effectively "transform our world": eradicate poverty and provide everyone with a sustainable future. Unlike the Millennium Development Goals, the preparation of the new development framework involved active participation of civil society stakeholders, including ICAE, of which EAEA is a member of.

Youth and adult learners overlooked

Throughout the negotiation process, ICAE had continuously stressed the importance of putting the human right to education in a lifelong learning perspective. Their efforts are demonstrated in Goal 4: "Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all".

That being said, ICAE feels that the final document fails to acknowledge the key role of youth and adult education in the achievement of SDGs. Targets 4.4 and 4.6 are particularly disappointing in this regard, as they limit the governments’ commitment by 2030 only to "substantially" increasing the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills for employment, and to ensuring that all youth, but only a "substantial proportion of adults" achieve literacy and numeracy.

ICAE points out that with 781 million adults and 126 million youth across the world lacking basic reading and writing skills in 2012, the UN should have adopted a stronger stance on adult education.

Transforming our world: governments have to act

SDGs come to force soon after the World Education Forum held in May 2015 in Incheon, South Korea and the release of its outcome document, Education 2030.

ICAE urges governments to implement both strategies by establishing legal and policy frameworks that are fully inclusive, reaching out to children, youth and adults. Substantial investment needs to be coupled with monitoring and accountability – otherwise even the "modest educational targets for adults" included in SDGs will not be met.

ICAE position paper is available in English, French and Spanish.

Text: Aleksandra Kozyra
Photo: UN Photo/Sanjeev Kumar