Building peace in the minds of men and women

Through education, UNESCO clears the path for peace


© UNESCO/E. Abramson

Literacy is much more than an educational priority – it is the ultimate investment in the future and an integral part of a set of competencies required in the twenty-first century.

Since its creation, UNESCO has tirelessly promoted the cause of education as the strongest foundation for peace, bringing sustainability to all development. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, the illiterate adult population has been reduced by more than 100 million people between 1990 and 2012, but 775 million adults, including 122 million youth between the ages of 15 and 24, remain illiterate. UNESCO is committed to expand quality education for all, throughout life.

For the seven decades since its creation, UNESCO has promoted literacy for all to ensure that every person enjoys the basic right to literacy. “Literacy not only changes lives, it saves them,” says UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “It is one of the most efficient ways of improving the health of mothers and children, understanding doctors’ prescriptions and gaining access to healthcare.” It is the most powerful way to shape the values, skills and knowledge we need to build the future we want.

In 1966, UNESCO’s General Conference created International Literacy Day, celebrated each year since then on 8 September. In 1967, UNESCO awarded its first-ever literacy prize bestowed in recognition of the efforts of communities and individuals who have helped mobilize public opinion on behalf of adult literacy. Today, the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize and UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy continue to honor excellence and innovation in promoting literacy throughout the world.

“Investing in literacy programs is a sensible and essential development choice. Literacy is a key component of strategies to promote sustainable development and peace,” said Irina Bokova.