Press Releases

    5 September 2001


    NEW YORK, 4 September (UN Headquarters) -- This is the text of the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to mark International Literacy Day, Saturday 8 September:

    On International Literacy Day, we celebrate the importance of literacy as an agent of empowerment in the lives of people everywhere, and its central role in the promotion of development, tolerance and peace. It is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to education as a decisive weapon in the fight against poverty and precariousness.

    There can be no doubt about the value of investing in literacy. The gains are outstanding not only in economic terms -– an educated workforce is a more productive workforce –- but also in social and cultural terms. Literacy is one of the foundations of citizenship. A literate person is one who can break down more effectively the barriers of obscurantism and prejudice. Educated parents have healthier children, who are more likely to stay in school longer and learn more effectively. Thus literacy is a prerequisite for the success of our efforts on all fronts.

    We have made significant progress in recent years. The adult illiteracy rate has declined steadily; the percentage of primary school enrolment has increased. But we must do even better. There are still approximately one billion illiterate adults in the world today. Among the 88 million out-of-school children who lack basic reading ability, two-thirds are girls. The gap between those who have access to the uses of literacy, including the Internet, and those who do not is growing wider.

    These challenges require a renewed vision and strengthened commitment to literacy. On International Literacy Day, let us recognize that education is fundamental to all our endeavours. Let us recommit ourselves to the cause of literacy for all. Let us pledge that this new century will witness the eradication of illiteracy.

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