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Literacy and Basic Skills

Literacy is key to lifelong learning and the pursuit of education in all its forms. Without it, there can be little or no progress made towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, which enjoins Member States to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’. It is therefore imperative that Member States commit to advancing and implementing policies geared towards providing literacy and basic skills on a global level, particularly to those most vulnerable and in need.

As a cornerstone of lifelong learning, literacy not only contributes towards safeguarding education as a human right, but also enables us to exercise fundamental freedoms that make our societies more equal and just. The United Nations General Assembly resolution ‘Literacy for life: Shaping future agendas’ reaffirms these principles and continues to underline the importance of strengthening joint efforts among international stakeholders to advance the global literacy agenda.

Data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) show that 758 million adults – two-thirds of whom are women – still lack basic reading and writing skills. Further UIS data suggest that 26 per cent of all illiterate adults live in sub-Saharan Africa. When promoting literacy and non-formal basic education, UIL therefore places a particular emphasis on gender equality and Africa, as well as on youth.

UIL provides support in developing literacy strategies and programmes, takes a lead role in monitoring global literacy efforts, and advocates for action. The provision of direct training and capacity-building is one of UIL’s main strategies for the advancement of literacy in UNESCO Members States. Further core activities include identifying examples of best practice for youth and adult literacy programmes, and making a rich collection of such case studies available to relevant stakeholders; and overseeing participatory research for the advancement and monitoring of literacy programmes. The Institute also carries out global monitoring and advocacy activities by chairing the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning and through the Global Alliance for Literacy.