Letter to UNESCO on the Literacy Decade (2003-2012)

Book of Art -Isaac Salazar

The United Nations Literacy Decade (
UNLD), co-ordinated by UNESCO, was launched in February 2003 and came to an end in December 2012. UNESCO is currently preparing the final evaluation of UNLD. A conference to present such results is announced for 2013. 

Within this framework, and as an input to the evaluation process, we present here the open letter sent in September 2007 to UNESCO by the Group of Latin American Specialists in Literacy and Written Culture (GLEACE).

8 September, International Literacy Day

TO: United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD) Section

With the occasion of the United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD) Expert Group Mid-Decade Review meeting convened by UNESCO’s UNLD Section, coinciding with the International Literacy Day, we want to request UNESCO to adopt and reinstate the “renewed vision of literacy” proposed in the Base Document prepared for this Decade in 2000.

The Base Document (available in English and Spanish) was the result of a consultation and participatory process led by a selected group of literacy experts from the various regions of the world, invited for this task by UNESCO’s Basic Education Division: Chander Daswani (India), Agneta Lind (Sweden), Michael Omolewa (Nigeria), Adama Ouane (Mali) and Rosa-María Torres (Ecuador). None of them - except for A. Ouane – was invited to this mid-decade review meeting and to integrate this newly created UNLD Expert Group.

The proposal for a Literacy Decade and the Base Document were submitted to consultation and was approved at the World Education Forum (Dakar, April 2000). The Strategic Session “Literacy for All: A renewed vision for a ten-year global action plan" held in Dakar was attended by nearly 100 individuals and organizations from all over the world. It was organized on behalf of the Education for All (EFA) Forum by the UNESCO Institute of Education (UIE, currently UIL), UNESCO´s Basic Education Division, the International Literacy Institute (ILI), ISESCO, Action Aid and Sida. A wide online consultation on the subject was also organized by UNESCO in 2000.

The "renewed vision of literacy” proposed in the Base Document and endorsed in Dakar, talked about ensuring effective access to, and meaningful use of, reading and writing to the population – children, youth, and adults – in and out of school, making use of all available media and technologies, and throughout life. The proposal was not to develop child, youth and adult literacy as separate goals, policies and programmes, but rather to integrate them within a single “Literacy for All” policy framework, and to understand literacy not in isolation but as an essential and integral component of Basic Education for all people – “Education for All”.

This holistic and inclusive vision of literacy is coherent with the lifelong learning paradigm and reflects the abundant research and empirical evidence accumulated in the field over the past decades.

Unfortunately, this “renewed vision of literacy” is not being promoted within the Decade and has apparently been abandoned by UNESCO. The Decade continues to be understood in a conventional and restricted manner, associating literacy only to youth and adults, and to out-of-school education interventions.

We thus call UNESCO, through the newly created UNLD Section and the UNLD Expert Group, to revisit the original proposal approved. At the same time, we commit ourselves to continue defending and advocating this renewed and expanded vision of literacy in our work and in our respective countries.


Latin American Group of Specialists in Literacy and Written Culture (GLEACE)


Latin American Council for Adult Education (CEAAL)

Latin American Campaign for the Right to Education (CLADE)

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