Clinton Robinson

Clinton Robinson from UNESCO Paris shared details of the UN Literacy Decade (UNLD) with participants in Abuja. This is a short summary of his input.

The United Nations Literacy Decade 2003 – 2012


The vision of the UNLD places Literacy for All at the heart of Education for All and sees literacy as central to all levels of education through all delivery modes – formal, non-formal and informal. The vision of Literacy for All encompasses North and South, urban and rural, those in school and those out of school, adults and children, boys and girls, men and women. Literacy for All implies a plural notion of literacy and the creation of dynamic literate environments. The challenge of Literacy for All goes beyond numbers and includes overcoming ne glect in educational agendas, recognising and working with diversity, and facilitating local action and partnerships. The project proposes strategic links with international development frameworks, such as the MDGs, national plans for education, national aid coordination as in UNDAF and other educational priorities – gender parity, quality, lifelong learning.

 Field trip by participants of the Abuja Workshop: Results of a Reflect circle 

Field trip by participants of the Abuja Workshop: Results of a Reflect circle, Source: ActionAid

The UNLD focuses on sound policies, well-designed programmes, adequate capacity, research evidence, community participation and monitoring and evaluation. Adequate monitoring is essential to the UNLD in terms of new approaches to assessing literacy use, not merely skill level, e.g. the LAMP initiative. It is also important to acquire a systematic knowledge of learn ing opportunities out side school.

A fresh impetus to the UNLD came with the establishment of the White House Conference on Global Literacy, which sought to develop new partnerships and link literacy with family, health and economic self-sufficiency. Additionally, several regional conferences have been scheduled where lessons of current experience will be shared, clearer and stronger policies put in place, resources mobilised, networks of regional exchange and support built, and literacy efforts on the ground mobilised. Stakeholders can get involved by working for broad par ticipation and adequate funding at the national level, communicating good practices for the conferences at the regional level, and advocat ing for literacy with bilateral and multilateral funding agencies at the international level.

Since the Abuja meeting the UN Literacy Decade has held major re gional conferences in Doha (for Middle East and North Africa), Beijing (for East Asia), Bamako (for Africa) and Delhi (for South and Central Asia). Each attracted hundreds of people, including first ladies, minis ters of education, directors of adult literacy, civil society activists and donors. In each of these conferences the International benchmarks on Adult Literacy and the Abuja Call for Action were shared in plenary sessions. Analysing the outcome documents from these four events it is clear that almost invariably the Benchmarks have significantly influenced the core recommendations and outcomes.