A sub-regional conference in support of literacy will take place in Beijing (China) on 31 July and 1 August. The second in a series of regional conferences organized by UNESCO to promote global literacy, it will focus on the situation in East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific. Although the total number of people who can read and write in this part of the world is high – 91.7% - a considerable gender gap persists, with women making up 70% of the illiterate population. The situation also varies significantly from one country to another.
At the opening of the conference, entitled “Literacy challenges in East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific: Building partnerships and promoting innovative approaches”, the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura will take the floor as will some of the First Ladies of the sub-region.
For two days, the participants – First Ladies, Education Ministers, decision-makers, representatives of civil society and universities, education professionals, members of bilateral and multilateral organizations – will assess the literacy challenges and achievements in the sub-region. The conference will also provide an opportunity to build renewed commitment and make concrete proposals to promote literacy at country level.
Debate will take the form of round tables on literacy policies, strategies and programmes. Specific regional issues will also be addressed, such as literacy in a multilingual context and literacy and rural development. In addition, the conference will present effective practices and show how the challenge of illiteracy can be met in different contexts using a variety of approaches.
The three themes discussed during the first regional literacy conference held in Doha (Qatar) from 12 to 14 March 2007 – mother-child and intergenerational literacy, literacy for health, and literacy for economic self-sufficiency – will be studied in depth. In addition, the topic of literacy and lifelong learning will be examined through concrete examples. A main objective of the conference is to build cooperation between stakeholders and to mobilize partners and resources to develop concrete initiatives in countries.
The conference is one of a series of six regional conferences in support of global literacy. Between now and the end of 2008, four others will be held in the same vein. They will extend the work of the White House Conference on Global Literacy organized in New York on 18 September 2006, hosted by Laura Bush, First Lady of the United States and Honorary Ambassador for the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012) and UNESCO’s Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE).