Informed citizens build sustainable societies says Dan Wagner, UNESCO Chair in Learning and Literacy

Mr Dan Wagner, UNESCO Chair in Learning and Literacy at the University of Pennsylvania, will make a keynote presentation on strengthening links between literacy and sustainable development as part of the UNESCO Global Meeting on “Literacy and Sustainable Societies”, which will be held at the Organization’s headquarters in Paris to celebrate International Literacy Day on 8 and 9 September.

Mr Wagner will present a paper on September 8 which discusses how nation-building and development, which depend on resources taken from the planet, must be rethought as those resources become depleted. He will highlight the disproportionate impact of environmental change on children, the poor, women and indigenous populations and the implications for education.

“A focus on literacy and sustainability in these marginalized groups is the most important thing we can do,” he said.

He says that while globalization brings with it threatening changes such as climate and environmental upheaval which will impact on education, social and political conflict, national and international migration, and employment, it also brings an increasingly connected global citizenry, greater access to new technologies and new respect for the world’s dwindling resources.  

In relation to literacy he said: “UNESCO plays a very special and central role in the promotion of literacy worldwide. In the era of the Sustainable Development Goals, its role should be strengthened as this is a special time where sustainable development requires that science and culture be linked to education initiatives. It’s the combination of these three sectors that will be needed for success, and UNESCO is uniquely positioned to make that happen.”

He said literacy helps to empower people and create more informed citizens who are vital to address the problems associated with building more sustainable societies. Rural farmers are better farmers if they have been to school just as educated people are better able to understand key health messages and educated mothers pass on their health learning to their children.