04.10.2018 - New York Office

The United Nations General Assembly discusses literacy and education for democracy


New York: On 2 October 2018, UNESCO presented the UN Secretary-General’s report on literacy for life and education for democracy at the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly.

On the first day of work of the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, Margarete Sachs-Israel, Chief Programme Coordinator, UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, presented the UNSG’s report “Literacy for life: shaping future agendas and Education for Democracy”. She emphasized that despite progress made, challenges remain stark. 750 million adults in the world are illiterate, the majority of whom women, and more than 617 million children and adolescents are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics at school. Therefore, the report calls upon Governments and the international community to step up efforts to make literacy a policy priority and to scale up actions with particular attention to vulnerable and marginalized groups. Mobilizing sufficient, effective and sustainable funding is of utmost importance in order to achieve this goal. The report also invites Governments to formulate legal frameworks and policies aimed at building flexible learning pathways and offering learning opportunities for people of all ages throughout life.

Discussing the advancement of the literacy agenda within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UNESCO representative highlighted that strategies and actions are underpinned by an understanding of literacy as a continuum of proficiency levels that can be developed throughout life. Such an expanded notion affects both policies and programmes for literacy. The 2030 vision for literacy also demands an inter-sectoral approach that links literacy learning to other areas for sustainable development, such as environmental sustainability, gender equality, skills for work and entrepreneurship, and peace.

UNESCO is actively supporting Member States in advancing literacy along six strategic areas: policy and planning for youth and adult literacy; scaling up literacy for women and girls; improving quality of programmes and innovations; enhancing literacy assessment and monitoring; furthering research, knowledge creation and advocacy; and through learning cities to promote inclusive and equitable societies.

Mandated by the UN General Assembly, UNESCO leads and coordinates the Education 2030 agenda, through the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee, the global multi-stakeholder coordination and partnership mechanism for education in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

The UNESCO representative also presented the implementation of Education for Democracy, and some of the challenges in its implementation such as continued sensitivity of such issues. She emphasized that new educational approaches fostering cognitive, social-emotional and behavioural capacities can be useful to address these. The report calls upon all stakeholders to strengthen the connection between democratic governance, peace, sustainable development, and the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, though education.

Finally, the report calls upon UNESCO to continue to play a coordinating and catalyzing role and to continue to support Member States in achieving the education-related SDGs.

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