24 August 2009

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Literacy not just reading, writing – ‘it is about respect, opportunity and development’,


says Secretary-General in message for international day


Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for International Literacy Day, observed on 8 September:

In a world of enormous wealth, in a world in which education and knowledge are the necessary passports to a better life, the scale of illiteracy is truly staggering.

Approximately 776 million adults ‑‑ most of them women ‑‑ have no secure command of the fundamentals of literacy and numeracy.

Seventy-five million children are not in school.

And even for those who get a start on their education, drop-out rates are very high.

Yet it wouldn’t take much to change the appalling status quo.  As pointed out by Dr. Lalage Bown, who will give this year’s International Literacy Day Lecture, “even the simplest acquisition of literacy can have a profoundly empowering effect personally, socially and politically”.

With that in mind, this year’s observance focuses on the empowering role of literacy.  Literacy gives people tools with which to improve their livelihoods, participate in community decision-making, gain access to information about health care, and much else besides.  Above all, it enables individuals to realize their rights as citizens and human beings.

Literacy is not just about reading and writing; it is about respect, opportunity and development.  On this International Literacy Day, I urge all partners to strengthen their commitment to promoting global literacy and to back this support with the resources needed to achieve real progress.

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For information media • not an official record