UNESCO is in charge of the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012), which has the goal of halving adult illiteracy rates. This goal was defined in the year 2000, when at the World Education Forum 164 states committed themselves to reach six education goals by 2015 under the programme Education for All (EFA). Alongside the reduction of illiteracy rates, for example the improvement of quality education, the achievement of universal primary education and the decrease of gender parity in education were established as targets.
The International Literacy Day on September 8th commemorates that it is still a privilege in many countries to be able to write and read.
Data of the UNESCO Global Monitoring Report 2011 proves that about 796 million people worldwide are illiterate; women make up almost two-thirds of the total. The vast majority of adult illiterates live in South and West Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa. The Arab States also register high levels of adult illiteracy. 72 per cent of the illiterate adults live in only ten countries.
However, writing and reading are essential skills; they are key to lifelong learning. They increase chances for employment and promote knowledge acquisition. Thus they can contribute to the reduction of child mortality rates and the improvement of health. For UNESCO, education is a substantial precondition for sustainable human development and the defeat of poverty. In order to make sure that these crucial skills can be acquired by significantly more people worldwide, the international literacy campaign mostly aims at political measures for the reduction of illiteracy, the development of appropriate teaching materials and the professional training of teaching staff.
Literacy in Germany
The German Federal Literacy Association (Bundesverband Alphabetisierung e.V.) and the German Commission for UNESCO have launched an alliance for literary in Germany. It coordinates the implementation of the United Nations Literacy Decade in Germany, organises events and campaigns, attends to the public debate and encourages public and private stakeholders to take action towards the improvement of adult illiterates’ education.
Members of the alliance are, besides the initiators, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the UNESCO-Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), the German Institute for Adult Education (DIE), the German Adult Education Association (DVV), the Ernst-Klett-Sprachen GmbH, the German Education Union (GEW) and the Stiftung Lesen.