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United Nations General Assembly calls for sustainable funding for youth and adult literacy in the era of COVID-19 and beyond

18 November 2020

On 16 November 2020, the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus the resolution “Literacy for life: shaping future agendas”. Traditionally introduced by Mongolia, this resolution was co-sponsored by an increased number of 114 Member States this year.

In this resolution, the UN General Assembly emphasized that literacy is “a foundation for lifelong learning, a building block for achieving human rights and fundamental freedoms and a driver of sustainable development.” It also underscores that literacy is crucial to the “acquisition by every child, young person and adult of the essential knowledge, skills and competencies that will enable them to address the challenges that they may face in life and represents an essential condition of lifelong learning.”

The resolution expresses deep concern that even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 773 million adults – two thirds of them women – lacked basic literacy skills. It underlines that more than 617 million children and adolescents were not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics and that 258 million children, adolescents and youth worldwide were out of school, according to UNESCO.

In the face of COVID-19 pandemic, this resolution calls on international development partners and Governments to ensure that sufficient and sustainable funds continue to be mobilized, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, “by and channeled through existing international financing mechanisms for education and that they also explicitly target and benefit youth and adult literacy.”

The resolution calls upon governments at all levels to scale up literacy programmes for all boys and girls, youth and adults, including older persons, and to pay particular attention to those who are vulnerable or marginalized. It also highlights the importance for Member States, United Nations organizations, civil society, academia and the private sector to collectively contribute to the implementation of the Strategies (2020–2025) of the Global Alliance for Literacy.

With adoption of the resolution, Member states took note of UNESCO’s new Strategy for Youth and Adult Literacy (2020 – 2025) and its action plan, and invite UNESCO to continue its mandated role of leading and coordinating the Education 2030 agenda, in particular through the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee, an inclusive global multi-stakeholder consultation and coordination mechanism for education in the 2030 Agenda.

The UN General Assembly also stresses UNESCO’s “coordinating and catalysing role through the implementation of the Global Alliance for Literacy and by continuing to provide support to Member States, in collaboration with partners, in enhancing capacities for policy formulation, programme implementation, monitoring and evaluation.” The Global Alliance for Literacy is coordinated by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning.

(Source: UNESCO NY Office)

Further information about the Global Alliance for Literacy