UNGA 56th session

Third Committee

Agenda items 108 







                                                                                                                16 October 2001

Mr. Chairman,


            My delegation has the honour to introduce the draft resolution entitled “A United Nations literacy decade: education for all” on behalf of the delegations listed in the document A/C.3/56/L.10, namely Benin, China, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Panama, Paraguay, Russian Federation, Thailand, Turkey and United States of America. I am delighted to announce that Bangladesh, Philippines and Senegal have also become co-sponsors of this draft resolution.

            As we enter the new millennium with hope for the great potential of new technologies, new ideas and unprecedented wealth, billions of people are not able to participate fully in the development processes, hundreds of millions do not have access to their basic right, namely the right to education. According the Education for All 2000 Assessment, conducted by UNESCO, despite the significant progress in many countries, some 113 million children, 60 percent of whom are girls, have no access to primary schooling, and at least 880 million adults are illiterate, the majority of whom are women. As it is rightly underlined in the report of the Secretary-General “this is an unacceptable situation in a world where the access to and processing of information and knowledge is the basis of opportunity and growth”.

            There is a growing consensus among the Member States that renewed efforts should be made towards eradicating illiteracy, and new ways must be found to work together on education. The fact that the map of illiteracy continues to overlap with the map of social, gender and ethnic inequalities, makes the struggle for literacy a struggle not only for education goals, but also for social justice, for human dignity and empowerment. This has been recognized at recent Summits and UN Conferences, including the World Education Forum held in Dakar last year.

In Dakar, the international community committed itself to the goals of ensuring that by 2015 all children have access to, and complete free and compulsory primary education of good quality, and of achieving a 50 percent improvement in levels of adult literacy by the same date. Furthermore, the participants committed themselves to eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015. The Millennium Declaration consequently gave special emphasis to women and girls’ education. 

            The implementation of the goals and strategies outlined in the Dakar Framework for Action will require national, regional and international mechanisms to be galvanized immediately. The fight waged by the international community is first and foremost that for achieving education for all through a major worldwide initiative that focuses on literacy as an integral component of the global and renewed commitment for Education for All and for social development. The United Nations Literacy Decade, which is to be proclaimed by the proposed draft resolution and started next year, will open a critical window for change – a chance to give further impetus to the commitments of Dakar. And this chance must not be missed.

             To achieve these goals the participants of the Dakar Forum, among others, pledged themselves to mobilize national and international political commitment for education for all, develop or strengthen existing national action plans and enhance significantly investment in basic education. While it is agreed that the primary responsibility rests with national governments, the international community including the UN and its specialized agencies should continue to provide effective support for national efforts. Furthermore, the implementation of agreed targets and success would depend, to a great extent, on the coordinated efforts of the international community and UN bodies. To that end it is proposed in the draft resolution to develop an international plan of action for the Decade based on the comments and proposals to be submitted by Governments and relevant international organizations. And UNESCO is requested to take the lead role in coordinating and implementing at the international level the activities envisaged within the framework of the Decade.