For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No: UNIS/SG/2635
Release Date: 28 August 2000
Secretary-General’s Message on International Literacy Day,
8 September 2000

NEW YORK, 25 August (UN Headquarters) – Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message on the occasion of International Literacy Day, which is observed on 8 September:

Today, we mark the first International Literacy Day of the twenty-first century.  It is an occasion to celebrate the power of literacy and education in promoting tolerance, understanding and peace among all people.  It is an opportunity to recommit ourselves to an investment that yields immeasurable dividends in changing the lives of the poor and vulnerable of this earth, and in protecting all life on this planet. 

Literacy and education are the foundations upon which all our endeavours to create a better world must be built.  Literate people are empowered to make better choices and lead fuller lives.  They are productive workers.  Economic development, social progress and human freedom all depend on the establishment of a basic level of literacy in all countries of the world. 

There are 880 million adult illiterates in the world today.  Two thirds of them are women.  Out of more than 110 million children who are deprived of basic education, two thirds are girls.  Experience has shown that investment in girls’ education and the consequent empowerment of women translate directly into better nutrition, health and economic performance for their families, their communities and, ultimately, their countries.  That is why I have asked world leaders at the Millennium Summit this week to make the education of girls a priority.

As we look back on the previous century, we do have some achievements to celebrate.  Over the past 30 years, the percentage of adult illiterates in the world has declined steadily.  In the next century we must do even better.  As we mark the first International Literacy Day of the Millennium, let us recognize that the right to literacy is universal. And as we close the Millennium Summit today, let us recognize that literacy is a prerequisite for the achievement of all our goals -- freedom from fear, freedom from want and sustaining our lives on this planet.  Let us not rest until we have stamped out illiteracy from the face of this Earth.

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