International Literacy Day (2021)
International Literacy Day is annually observed on the eighth of September as a reminder of the valuable contribution of literacy to human development. Announced at the fourteenth session of the General Conference of UNESCO on the 26th of October 1966, the focus of this day is to call for a concerted effort towards eradicating global illiteracy and to shed light on the alarming reality of many individuals around the world who lack basic literacy skills.
In response, UNESCO established the Literacy Initiative for Empowerment during the period of 2003-2012 providing a strategic framework for national governments, NGOs, civil society, the private sector, UN and bilateral agencies to advance literacy efforts in countries where illiteracy posed a critical challenge. Similarly, in 2009, during the sixth International Conference on Adult Education (CONFINTEA VI) held in Belém - Brazil, UNESCO Member States affirmed their commitment to strengthening adult learning and education (ALE) in five key ‘areas of action’, and to monitor and report on national progress on a regular basis.
This progress was followed by the first global report on adult learning and education based on 154 national reports submitted by UNESCO Member States, highlighting trends in adult learning as well as key challenges. Moreover, in 2015, the World Education Forum (WEF) adopted the Incheon Declaration further committing to implement steps to promote education opportunities for all by 2030.
Nevertheless, despite the progress made, literacy challenges remain, as demonstrated by the available data that indicates that nearly 773 million young people and adults do not possess the basic skills of literacy and numeracy skills.
Acknowledging the drastic effect the covid-19 pandemic has had on the hindering of proper education on a global scale, UNESCO has declared the theme of this year’s celebration to be “Literacy for a human-centered recovery : Narrowing the digital divide.”
The celebration of the International Literacy Day acts as a reminder to prioritize education, particularly during times of conflict and distress. Considering that socio-economic and political tensions can hinder literacy progress due to the disruption of traditional teaching capacities, it is crucial to develop alternate means of learning.
According to UNESCO, during the initial phase of the pandemic, the education of 62.3% of the world’s student population was disrupted. The immediate solution to that was to shift to online learning, which unfortunately was not a possible solution for many across the world. This demonstrated the great divide in connectivity, infrastructure and the ability to engage with technology.
The Geneva Institute for Human rights urges Governments, organizations and key international stakeholders and development partners to intensify efforts towards the global literacy progress. By celebrating the International Literacy Day, the Geneva Institute for Human Rights stresses on the importance of working towards more literate societies to social and individual human development.
Within that context, the Institute calls on decision-makers to prioritize the eradication of illiteracy and to actively follow up on successful achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of ensuring 100% of adult literacy by 2030.
More importantly, the Institute calls for the provision of various means of education that extends beyond urban areas and that are inclusive, particularly recognizing the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.
Relevant and meaningful education should be provided for all, without room for bias or discrimination based on an individuals socio-economic or ethnic status.