In this year that marks the start of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014), the theme of International Literacy Day is the role of literacy in sustainable development.
Literacy is a key lever of change and a practical tool of empowerment on each of the three main pillars of sustainable development: economic development, social development and environmental protection.
Experience and research show that literacy can be a major tool for eradicating poverty, enlarging employment opportunities, advancing gender equality, improving family health, protecting the environment and promoting democratic participation. A literate home environment is a boon to child development, having a positive impact on how long girls and boys stay enrolled in school and how effectively they learn. In recent years, many literacy programmes have become increasingly oriented towards local needs, especially through a focus on community development and environmental protection. Such approaches seek to provide an enriched version of literacy that goes beyond the basic mechanics of reading and writing to embrace life skills and relevant content.
As the foundation of learning throughout life, literacy is at the heart of sustainable development. Yet today there are an estimated 800 million illiterate adults, two-thirds of whom are women. More than 100 million children are not in school. It is clear that support for literacy continues to fall well short of need. On this International Literacy Day, let us recall that literacy for all is an integral part of education for all, and that both are critical for achieving truly sustainable development for all.