This year's commemoration of International Literacy Day under the theme “Literacy and Peace” offers an important reminder that the critical tasks of preventing violence, calming tensions and ending conflicts all demand attention to this fundamental aspect of human dignity.
Literacy unlocks the capacity of individuals to imagine and create a more fulfilling future. It opens the way to greater justice, equality and progress. Literacy can help societies heal, advance political processes and contribute to the common good.
Despite progress, illiteracy continues to afflict millions of people, especially women and girls. In 2009, roughly two thirds of the world's estimated 793 million illiterate adults were female. That same year, some 67 million primary-school-aged children and 72 million adolescents were denied their right to an education.
The costs are enormous. Illiteracy exacerbates cycles of poverty, ill health and deprivation. It weakens communities and undermines democratic processes through marginalization and exclusion. These and other impacts can combine to destabilize societies.
International Literacy Day is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the goal of ensuring that all people can read and write. In the process, we will enhance inherent individual dignity and advance the universal goal of peace.