UN regional literacy conference kicks off in Beijing

UN regional literacy conference kicks off in Beijing

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is holding a conference in Beijing starting today to help tackle illiteracy in East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific, where women make up nearly seven out of every 10 people who cannot read and write.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is holding a conference in Beijing starting today to help tackle illiteracy in East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific, where women make up nearly seven out of every 10 people who cannot read and write.

Education ministers, experts, civil society representatives and First Ladies from across the region have gathered in the Chinese capital for the two-day conference, which is focusing on encouraging partnerships and promoting innovative approaches to reducing illiteracy.

Almost 92 per cent of people in East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific can read and write, but the figures vary widely from country to country and the region as a whole suffers from a persistent gender gap, with women comprising 70 per cent of the illiterate population.

The conference is designed to trigger individual States to do more to promote literacy through measures such as building up their investment in literacy programmes and integrating such programmes into wider education strategies.

This week’s gathering is the second of six regional meetings on global literacy to be held before the end of next year. They follow on from the White House Conference on Global Literacy, held in New York in September last year. That conference was hosted by United States First Lady Laura Bush, who is also a Honorary Ambassador for the UN Literacy Decade (2003-2012) and UNESCO’s Literacy Initiative for Empowerment.