Building peace in the minds of men and women

UNESCO message for the International Literacy Day

Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the International Literacy Day, 8 September 2013

Literacy is a basic right and an essential motor for human development. It paves the way to autonomy, the acquisition of skills, cultural expression and full participation in society.

Illiteracy in the world has fallen over the two decades, thanks to international efforts and work towards the Millennium Development Goals. Today, 84% of the world’s population can read and write, compared to 76% in 1990. In 20 years, the illiterate population has been reduced by more than 100 million people.

This is still not enough. Behind these figures there are still serious inequalities. Two thirds of the 774 million illiterate adults in the world are women. Most of the children and young people who do not go to school are girls. Fifty-seven million primary school-age children and 69 million secondary school-age children do not have the opportunity to attend. Children lucky enough to go to school do not always leave being able to read and write. Even in economically developed countries, the proportion of the population lacking basic reading and writing skills is too high. This is a serious obstacle to individual fulfillment, to the development of societies and to mutual understanding between peoples.