Building peace in the minds of men and women

Literacy: stairway to development

The urgency and vital importance of one of the essential tasks of our age elimination of the gap between the have and the have-not countries are daily becoming increasingly apparent throughout the world. It is also tragically obvious that one thousand million adults can neither contribute effectively to nor profit fully from development. It is for our generation the generation of the twentieth century to carry out this gigantic and vital task, the historic significance of which will certainly be made abundantly clear during the celebration of Human Rights Year.

The World Congress of Ministers of Education on the Eradication of Illiteracy, held in Teheran from 8 to 19 September 1965, agreed that the scourge of illiteracy affected all mankind, violated the dignity of man, impeded development and was an obstacle to international understanding. It strongly emphasized the decisive importance, for the eradication of illiteracy, of international solidarity and cooperation.

Although the tragic disproportion between the resources needed for this task and those available has only been further confirmed since the Teheran Congress, some grounds for hope have none the less emerged.

The appeals of the supreme spiritual and moral leaders of the international community, the determination of many governments to devote great efforts to the cause of literacy, the visible signs of international solidarity, that sacred duty which this task imposes upon all countries, and the encouraging start to UNESCO's World Literacy Programme all these things open up new prospects and inspire confidence and hope.

On behalf of UNESCO's International Consultative Liaison Committee for Literacy, I solemnly invite the governments of Member States of UNESCO to follow the example of those States which have already made voluntary contributions to UNESCO's Special Account for literacy work and to appeal to public opinion in their countries with a view to fostering and encouraging action by public and private organizations to increase that contribution.

The committee believes that the time is now ripe for the launching of a vast movement of international solidarity that will contribute decisively to the eradication of illiteracy throughout the world and will make it possible in the wake of the great democratic gains of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to ensure access to education for all men. The committee is sure that all governments will wish to contribute to the success of an entreprise of such capital importance for human dignity and progress.

Ashraf Pahlavi, Chairman of the International Consultative Liaison Committee for Literacy

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April 1968