On International Literacy Day, Annan calls for efforts to close education gap

On International Literacy Day, Annan calls for efforts to close education gap

Marking International Literacy Day, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is urging stepped-up efforts to close the education gap, which he calls “a fundamental inequality in our globalizing world.”

Marking International Literacy Day, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is urging stepped-up efforts to close the education gap, which he calls “a fundamental inequality in our globalizing world.”

“Achieving universal literacy is everybody’s concern [and] must engage the wider international community, the United Nations family, civil society, the private sector, local groups and individuals,” Mr. Annan says in his message on the Day, which is commemorated each year on 8 September.

Almost one in every seven people is illiterate, and of the world’s 880 million illiterate adults, more than 500 million are women, according to the message. The Secretary-General calls this state of affairs an “affront to individual human dignity” which imperils the future well-being of humankind.

The literacy gap, he says, is especially unjust because “it has an impact on our ability to bridge all other inequalities – between men and women, between rich and poor, between the haves and have-nots of the information technology age, between those who stand to gain from globalization and those who are excluded from its benefits.”

Mr. Annan points out that next year the UN will launch the United Nations Literacy Decade – an initiative agreed by all countries to energize work towards reaching the goal of increasing literacy levels by 50 per cent by the year 2015. “Let us rededicate ourselves to playing our full part in that mission,” he says.

The Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a leading advocate of the importance of literacy programmes, says teaching the ability to read has widespread effects. “Literacy is best acquired in connection with practical purposes and uses, such as building livelihoods, solving problems, and accessing new information – in short, ways in which people empower and transform themselves in their society,” says Koïchiro Matsuura in his message on the Day.