SECRETARY-GENERAL STRESSES NEED FOR POLITICAL WILL AND RESOURCES TO MEET CHALLENGE OF FIGHT AGAINST ILLITERACY19970904 In Message on Occasion of International Literacy Day - 8 September
Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the occasion of International Literacy Day, observed on 8 September:
Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories.
Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right.
As we mark International Literacy Day 1997, let us recognize the considerable progress that has been made in advancing literacy worldwide. The illiteracy rate, estimated 45 per cent 50 years ago, has fallen to 23 per cent today, despite rising world population. Between 1970 and 1995, the adult illiteracy rate in developing countries was reduced by nearly half -- from 57 per cent to 30 per cent, with the fastest decline occurring in the Arab States.
But let us also remember that there exists a significant backlog of deprivation. The developing world has more than 840 million illiterate adults, 64 per cent of them women. Even in industrial countries, which have nearly universal education and close to 100 per cent literacy, more than 15 per cent of secondary-school-age children are not enrolled in school.
The United Nations system, and in particular the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), are fully engaged in the fight against illiteracy. So let us meet the challenge of finding the political will, as well as the resources, that are needed to succeed in this important campaign. Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential. These aspirations merit our strongest possible support.
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