More than 773 million young people and adults around the world cannot read this message. They are among the ranks of our fellow citizens who have not yet gained full literacy skills. They may not be able to fill out a job application, decipher a bus timetable or read a story aloud to their children. Two out of three are women who are denied this essential ingredient to full participation in society.
In our knowledge-based era, literacy is a foundation for a more just, inclusive and sustainable world. It can advance all the Millennium Development Goals. Literacy enables people to gain access to information to improve their health and nutrition, widen their livelihood options, cope with environmental change and make informed choices.
When we invest in learning and literacy, we invest in human dignity, development and peace. That is why I launched the Global Education First Initiative, which focuses on ensuring that every child can go to school. Worldwide at least 250 million primary-school –age children cannot read, write or count. Half of these girls and boys never make it to school or are pushed out before their fourth year. Another 200 million adolescents, including those who completed secondary school, do not have basic literacy skills -- and so our initiative also focuses on improving the quality of education as well as fostering global citizenship.
I urge all countries to make education and literacy national priorities and to work with partners across society to advance these goals. By promoting literacy, we can help millions of people write their own chapter of opportunity in their lives and our common future.