United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
First Lady of the United States to host Global Literacy Conference in New York

Laura Bush, First Lady of the United States and Honorary Ambassador for the United Nations Literacy Decade, will host the first-ever White House Conference on Global Literacy at the New York Public Library in New York City on 18 September, 2006. First Ladies, First Spouses, and decision-makers from around the world will attend. The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, and Peter Smith, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education, will also participate in conference.

The Conference, which will be held a day prior to the 61st session of the United Nations General Assembly, will underscore the need for sustained global and country-level leadership in promoting literacy. It will build on Mrs. Bush’s commitment, expertise and experience in education and aims to encourage greater international involvement and new public/private partnerships to support literacy efforts.

According to the latest UNESCO statistics, 781 million adults - two-thirds of whom are women - are unable to read and over 100 million children worldwide are not in school. Eighty-five percent of the world’s illiterate adults live in just 35 countries, which are concentrated in regions of high poverty.

The Conference will present panels focusing on three main themes: Mother-Child Literacy and Intergenerational Learning, Literacy for Health, and Literacy for Economic Self-Sufficiency.

“Literacy is vital to strong, free societies. And reading changes lives. Mothers who can read raise children who can read. They can also make informed decisions that protect the health of their families and can participate in local economies. Literacy strengthens families just as it strengthens communities and societies,” said Mrs. Bush.

Mr Matsuura has welcomed the conference as “a unique opportunity to accelerate and expand efforts towards achieving global literacy” and pledged UNESCO’s continued support to maintain the momentum.

During the event, the Director-General will announce a series of follow-up regional conferences in support of literacy within the framework of the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012) and UNESCO’s Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE). These conferences will gather regional experiences, disseminate effective practices, promote cooperation among stakeholders, mobilize partners and resources, and advocate for literacy.

The aim of this campaign is to assist countries in addressing their literacy challenges, thereby contributing to sustainable human development and poverty reduction.

Source Press Release N°2006-114
Website 1 (URL) Global Literacy Conference website
Website 2 (URL) UNESCO Literacy Portal
Publication Date 14 Sep 2006
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