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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – April 14, 2003: UNESCO Literacy Campaign - 2003-04-13

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The United Nations has launched a new ten-year campaign to increase literacy around the world. People with literacy skills can read and write. People who are not able to read and write are considered illiterate.

There are currently about eight-hundred-sixty-million illiterate people around the world. That is one out of every five adults over age fifteen. Two-thirds of them are women. In addition, more than one-hundred-thirteen-million children do not attend school and are failing to learn to read and write.

The main message of the U-N campaign is “Literacy as Freedom.” Deputy U-N Secretary General Louise Frechette launched the campaign in February during a special ceremony at U-N headquarters in New York City.

She said that literacy is needed for a healthy, fair and successful world. She also noted the importance of education for girls and women to improve conditions in developing countries. That is why the first two years of the campaign will be aimed at improving the literacy of females.

The U-N Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization will supervise the campaign. UNESCO head Koichiro Matsuura says the push for worldwide literacy is linked to human rights. He believes that literacy can help improve development and economic growth in poor countries.

The wife of President Bush, Laura Bush, was also present to launch the campaign. She said the United States plans to invest more than three-hundred-million dollars to support education in schools around the world. An estimated one-hundred-million dollars of that money will be spent in Africa. About seventy percent of the world’s illiterate adults live in South and West Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

The United Nations hopes the new campaign will help increase world literacy by fifty percent by the year two-thousand-fifteen. This is just one of six goals set during a world education meeting in Dakar, Senegal in two-thousand. However, officials say seventy-nine countries are currently at risk of not meeting the literacy goal.

The U-N says the literacy campaign will be a huge test. But it will also be an important chance to improve the lives of millions of people around the world.This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.