UNESCO has been at the forefront of global literacy efforts since its foundation in 1946. Literacy is a human right and the basis for lifelong learning. It empowers individuals, families and communities and improves their quality of life. Because of its “multiplier effect”, literacy helps eradicate poverty, reduce child mortality, curb population growth, achieve gender equality and ensure sustainable development, peace and democracy.
UNESCO’s mission includes advocacy; standard-setting and benchmarking; acting as a clearinghouse; the dissemination of effective practices; policy and programme advice; support; capacity-building; research; literacy assessment; monitoring and evaluation; and partnership building.
UNESCO’s policy today is to support the promotion of literacy and literate environments as an integral part of lifelong learning and to keep literacy high on national and international agenda. Through its worldwide literacy programmes, advocacy work and knowledge base, the Organization works with countries and partners to realize the vision of a literate world for all.
UNESCO does not advocate a single “model” of literacy. UNESCO’s concept of literacy has moved beyond the simple notion of a set of technical skills for reading, writing and counting to one that encompasses multiple dimensions of these abilities. UNESCO recognizes that there are many practices of literacy embedded in different cultural processes, personal circumstances and collective structures.
This wide concept of literacy entails the notion of literacy across the lifespan: an evolving process concerning individuals of all age groups and at all levels of learning acquired through various modes of literacy provision.
UNESCO also monitors global literacy levels through the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS), the EFA Global Monitoring Report and regional assessment programmes (RAMAA, SACMEC and LLECE).