United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization  

  International Literacy Day - 8 September 2000  

  Director-General's Message
  Celebration 2000
  Literacy prizes 2000
  Sidelights on History
  Literacy with a Human Face
  Reflection on Literacy Day
  Picture Gallery
  World Bibliography

Message from the Director-General on the occasion of International Literacy Day  

On this 8 September 2000 the whole world is, for the thirtieth successive year, celebrating International Literacy Day. At the dawn of this new century, what conclusions can be drawn from the experience of several decades of mobilizing efforts to promote literacy?

The World Education Forum, which was held in Dakar last April, was aimed in part at conducting just such an appraisal. The most wide-ranging evaluation ever carried out in basic education has shown that, while significant progress has been achieved in some countries, illiteracy is still a fact of the twenty-first century - in both the developing and the developed countries - despite the universalization of primary schooling.

Hundreds of millions of individuals - and more particularly women - do not have access to this basic right, namely the right to education. There are also very many who, as a result of the deterioration of their economic and social status, are losing their command of even the basic concepts they had acquired, and find themselves relapsing into functional illiteracy.

Poverty and exclusion are chiefly to blame. They remind us that economic development does not necessarily go hand in hand with social development.

The combat waged by UNESCO is first and foremost that of education for all. Education is a fragile good and one that is still too unequally distributed. Literacy training is the gateway to it. To be useful and functional, such training must directly address improving the status of those it targets.

The Decade that the United Nations proposes to devote to literacy training testifies that the combat to open that gateway to everyone will be a long-drawn-out one. Our efforts in the field of literacy training are therefore not over and probably never will be, for such training, if it is to remain a useful tool, must be maintained throughout life.

UNESCO places literacy training at the forefront of its priorities. Only by enlisting the international community as a whole will we be able to meet the challenge. I wish to pay tribute, on this very special day, to all those who constantly devote themselves, many voluntarily and in particularly difficult conditions, to this noble and generous combat. UNESCO stands and will ever stand beside them.

Koïchiro Matsuura



This year International Literacy Day poster shows the well-known @ sign which has come to symbolize the growing interconnectedness of the 21st century.

However, without literacy, technology which connects people will be beyond the reach of millions of illiterates around the world.

Through basic literacy and technology, people link themselves to the vast universe of human knowledge represented in the poster by a sky of alphabetical and mathematical symbols.




Updated 8 September 2000