We are celebrating today the first International Literacy Day of the third millennium. We must never forget that literacy is indeed a cause for celebration: for individuals and their families and for society at large. Humankind has achieved spectacular progress in regard to literacy: there are now close to four billion literate people in the world. Moreover, many of today's rapid technological advances are focused on information and communication, which are central to the practice of literacy. The new information and communication technologies offer the prospect of many new and fascinating opportunities to literate persons. Extract from the Director-General's Message on the occasion of International Literacy Day, 8 September 2001