The Secretary-General’s message on International Literacy Day

Literacy Day 2016This year, the world has embarked on implementing the ambitious and transformational 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  With its 17 universal, integrated and interdependent Sustainable Development Goals, the 2030 Agenda is an action plan for people, planet, partnership and peace.

Literacy stands at heart of the 2030 Agenda.  It is a foundation for human rights, gender equality, and sustainable societies.  It essential to all our efforts to end extreme poverty and promote well-being for all people.  That is why the Sustainable Development Goals aim for universal access to quality education and learning opportunities throughout people’s lives.

One of the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 4 is to ensure that all young people achieve literacy and numeracy and that a substantial proportion of adults who lack these skills are given the opportunity to acquire them.

Fifty years ago, International Literacy Day was proclaimed to promote literacy as a tool to empower individuals, communities and societies.  We have made significant progress over the past five decades, but the world is still very far from universal literacy.  And today, with the world becoming increasingly digitized and information rich, new opportunities and challenges are emerging.

More than 750 million adults are illiterate, including 115 million young people.  Two thirds are female.  Some 250 million children of primary school age lack basic literacy skills and 124 million children and adolescents receive no schooling at all.

These obstacles to sustainable development can and must be overcome by developing and implementing the right policies, backed up by commitment and resources.  We need to ensure that those out of school get access to quality learning opportunities, we need to improve the quality of schooling, and we need to promote adult education and learning.

On this International Literacy Day, I call on governments and their partners, including in the private sector, to join forces for universal literacy so we can translate the vision of the 2030 Agenda into reality and build peaceful, just, inclusive and sustainable societies.