The three key documents published as part of the 7th meeting of the International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA) all include affirmation of the place of libraries within adult and lifelong learning strategies. These can be helpful references for libraries and library associations in calling for stronger recognition at the national level.

CONFINTEA VII took place on 15-17 June 2022 in Marrakesh, brining together ministers, mayors, officials and experts in the field of lifelong learning from around the world.

As an immediate result of the discussions that took place there, and in preparation for it, the Marrakesh Framework for Action represents a statement of priorities and actions to be taken between now and the next conference,  priori taking place in 2033 or 2034.

In addition to this, UNESCO published two key reports at the time of the Conference – the 5th Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (GRALE 5), and a Handbook on Lifelong Learning Policies.

Beyond their value to anyone interested in the subject of lifelong learning, these documents all contain references to libraries. Given that these are official reports – endorsed either by UNESCO (in the case of GRALE 5 and the Handbook), or by all Member States (in the case of the Framework for Action), they can be useful in library advocacy.

This article sets out the arguments that they can support.

Governments should recognise libraries as learning spaces: this point appears repeatedly across each of the documents, from paragraph 24 of the Marrakesh Framework for Action which argues that they should be mobilised as part of transformative lifelong learning strategies, or on page 17 of the Handbook, which lists libraries as being among the essential elements of lifelong learning.

This recommendation applies as much to national governments as to local ones, with the Handbook underlining that libraries represent a key means for the latter to play a role in lifelong learning (pages 153-155), and so which must be mobilised (page 163), including as part of partnerships (page 52).

The reports also stress that libraires play a key role in informal and non-formal education alike (Handbook pages 86-87), and even argues that when designing learning activities, the fact that they may be carried out in libraries should be taken into account (page 83).

The resources to which libraries allow access are particularly important: the ‘traditional’ role of libraries as a place where people can find and read materials that might otherwise be beyond their reach retains its importance. The Handbook stresses this on page 89, noting in particular how valuable they were during the pandemic (page 31).

The Global Report on Adult Learning and Education, on page 137) suggests how valuable digital libraries can be for supporting learning – an activity that libraries themselves are well placed to initiate or support (page 137).

(Information) Literacy is vital!: Promoting universal literacy remains a priority, given how much of a gateway this is to other skills, a point highlighted in the Marrakesh Framework. The UNESCO Handbook, on page 89, stresses that this is a key strength of libraries.

Citizenship education and media information literacy (MIL) are a particular theme also, with the Marrakesh Framework calling on governments to invest in MIL (paragraph 39). GRALE 5 also focuses on citizenship education as a topic, and notes how libraries are often delivery venues for work in this area (page 128). The Handbook too notes examples of libraries involved in promoting citizenship (page 34).

Libraries can make a real difference in efforts to promote inclusion: there is a strong focus on how libraries can help ensure that adult and lifelong learning strategies reach the populations that need them most. As page 89 of the Handbook states, libraries are part of the social fabric, and ‘are meeting places that forge connections between people and institutions integral to the promotion of [lifelong learning]’. As such, governments are urged to include libraries in plans to provide services to potentially vulnerable populations (page 126 of the Handbook).

The Handbook also emphasises the work of community and prison libraries in particular, both of which can be powerful means of reaching populations which would otherwise be underserved (page 90).


We will be preparing further briefing and tools for libraries in the coming weeks and months, but hope that these references will already allow the field to strengthen your arguments in calling for stronger inclusion of libraries in official planning around adult and lifelong learning.

Access the three documents: