Building peace in the minds of men and women

Five decades of literacy work

Over five decades, the concept of literacy has evolved from basic reading, writing and numeracy skills to broader notions such as functional literacy and a foundation for lifelong learning.


  • The Incheon Declaration adopted at the World Education Forum held in Incheon, republic of Korea, encapsulates the commitment to Education 2030 to provide inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all and recognizes the important role of literacy.


  • UNESCO’s sixth conference on adult education in Brazil, CONFINTEA VI, adopts the Belém Framework for Action.
  • The first Global Report on Adult Learning and Education, GRALE I, is launched by UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) presenting insights on literacy from all world regions.


  • UNESCO takes the lead of the UN Literacy Decade, which envisions Literacy for All actions. The Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE) is the mechanism to take that action and improve literacy rates all over the world.


  • Dakar Framework for Action is adopted at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, organized by UNESCO. Literacy is high on the agenda and goals are adopted: to meet the basic learning needs of youth and adults through the functional literacy approach, and to reduce adult literacy rates by 50 per cent.


  • The importance of adult literacy is highlighted during the fifth International Conference on Adult Learning, CONFINTEA V, in Hamburg, Germany, with the outcome document: The Hamburg Declaration on Adult Learning.



  • UNESCO organizes the International Symposium for Literacy and adopts the Persepolis Declaration in Persepolis, Iran, in which literacy is described as a contribution to the liberation of man, instead of being limited to “the process of learning the skills of reading, writing and arithmetic”.