New UN Resolution calls for UNESCO to continue its catalysing role in the fight against illiteracy

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© Ecuador’s Ministry of Education/EBJA

Literacy for life: shaping future agendas, a new UN Resolution (hyperlink to Resolution)) calls for intensified efforts from countries and development partners to promote literacy for children, youth and adults, regardless of gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and other conditions.

The Resolution was adopted by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly on 23 October, 2014 and reaffirm’s literacy as a basic right for all, and its centrality to lifelong learning.

The Resolution calls for nations worldwide to continue pushing measures to boost literacy skills with force: “better integrating literacy into sector-wide and multi-sectoral education and development strategies, expanding the provision of quality literacy programmes, enhancing education systems to provide quality basic education through schooling, enriching literate environments to allow people to acquire, use and advance literacy skills, and promoting literacy for women and girls as well as marginalized groups for their empowerment and inclusion in societies”.

The Resolution also highlighted the need for better political and financial commitments, in particular for youth and adult literacy and non-formal education, as well as the strengthening of education systems and interventions, and building a robust knowledge and technical base through improved literacy monitoring, assessment and research. A special emphasis is placed on the learning needs of boys and girls, in humanitarian emergencies.

This Resolution, co-sponsored by Mongolia and other countries was adopted at the critical juncture of reflection on how to move forward on collective efforts for boosting literacy, following the end of the UN Literacy Decade (2003-2012) and during discussions for the Post-2015 development agenda.

It also acknowledges the inclusion of “a goal on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting life-long learning opportunities for all with a stand-alone target on literacy” in the report of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.

In this context, UNESCO has been requested in the Resolution  “to continue its coordinating and catalysing role in the fight against illiteracy in the post United Nations Literacy Decade agenda” through its areas of competence as well as advocating for literacy on the global agenda and ensuring synergies between different actions, including through a multi-stakeholder partnership and networks. UNESCO’s recent support to the Government of Bangladesh to organise the International Conference on “Girls and Women’s Literacy and Education: Foundations for Sustainable Development” (Dhaka, 8 September 2014), represents such efforts.  

Globally, there are still 781 million adults who lack basic literacy skills, and 58 million children out-of-school in at the primary level and 63 million out-of-school children at the secondary level.  An estimated 250 million children of primary school age are reported to be failing to acquire basic literacy skills. 

The implementation of the Resolution will be reported by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, in cooperation with UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, at the seventy-first session of the UN General Assembly in 2016.