UNESCO Director-General welcomes announcement of White House symposium on advancing global literacy

Today, Thursday 12 June 2008, the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, issued a statement welcoming the announcement by Mrs Laura Bush, First Lady of the United States of America and Honorary Ambassador for the United Nations Literacy Decade, that she will host a second international literacy meeting in New York on 22 September 2008.

The announcement was made by Mrs Bush the previous evening, at a reception held in Paris on the occasion of a donor conference for Afghanistan. “Next September, during the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the White House will host a symposium on advancing global literacy, to build on the momentum that was created by the 2006 White House conference, and then the subsequent UNESCO regional literacy conferences,” Mrs Bush said in her remarks.

In his statement, the Director-General expressed his confidence that this second meeting would provide fresh impetus to international efforts to provide literacy to all. “Through our coordination of the UN Literacy Decade, and through our country-level Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE), UNESCO is working closely with Member States to raise awareness of the global literacy challenge and galvanize action to address it. The UNESCO regional Conferences – which have been held in Qatar, China, Mali, India and Azerbaijan, with the final meeting in the series scheduled to take place in Mexico in early September – have helped to advance this work, identifying good practices, mobilizing new partnerships, and supporting country-led operations. The symposium in September, while drawing to an end this rewarding series, will also mark the beginning of a new phase in our efforts. Here, the real hard work must begin among all stakeholders to deliver on the recommendations made. Now is the time for action; and time is short”, Mr Matsuura said.

The Director-General highlighted that the year 2008 represented a crucial juncture for the international community, as both the mid-term of the UN Literacy Decade and the halfway point towards the 2015 target date for achieving Education for All and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). “Unless efforts are redoubled to reach the over 774 million adults in the world who still cannot read or write, then these development objectives will not be met”, Mr Matsuura underscored. “The need to tackle female illiteracy is of particular urgency. Women account for two-thirds of all adult illiterates. Yet, we know that female literacy – with its proven benefits for health, nutrition, education and household income – is important for reaching every one of the MDGs. Drawing on the outcomes of the regional conferences, UNESCO is developing a strategic framework for action for the second half of the UN Literacy Decade aimed at scaling up and accelerating efforts to address this urgent situation”.

In conclusion, Mr Matsuura paid tribute to Mrs Bush for her inspiring leadership as Honorary Ambassador for the Decade. “Her hard work and dedication have encouraged other First Ladies across the globe to speak out in support of literacy, and have propelled national governments and other key partners to step up their commitments in this area. I am very much looking forward to working with her, and her team, in organizing what promises to be another landmark event in our drive to achieve global literacy”.

  • Author(s):Office of the Spokeswoman
  • Source:Flash Info N° 071-2008
  • 12-06-2008
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