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Literacy is a driver for sustainable development that enables greater participation in the labour market, improved child and family health and nutrition, reduces poverty, and expands life opportunities. Beyond its conventional concept as a set of reading, writing and counting skills, literacy is now understood as a means of identification, understanding, interpretation, creation, and communication in an increasingly digital, text-mediated, information-rich and fast-changing world.

Globally, however, at least 750 million youth and adults still cannot read and write and 250 million children are failing to acquire basic literacy skills. This results in an exclusion of low-literate and low-skilled youth and adults from full participation in their communities and societies.

Celebrated on the 8th of September each year, International Literacy Day serves as a reminder of the status of literacy worldwide and of the importance of literacy in peace, development, poverty eradication, empowerment, health, and gender equality. It is an opportunity for governments, civil society and other relevant stakeholders to highlight improvements in world literacy rates, and reflect on the world's remaining literacy challenges. The issue of literacy is a key component of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The theme of this year's International Literacy Day is ‘Literacy in a Digital World’. On 7th – 8th September, 2017 a special two-day event will be organized at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris, with the overall aim to look at what kind of literacy skills people need to navigate increasingly digitally-mediated societies, and to explore effective literacy policies and programmes that can leverage the opportunities that the digital world provides. The Awards Ceremony of the 2017 UNESCO International Literacy Prizes will also take place to recognise and reward excellent literacy practices from around the world in connection with this year’s theme.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at the United Nations, promotes, as part of its agenda, universal access to quality education and learning opportunities throughout people’s lives. Goal 4 has as one of its targets ensuring all young people achieve literacy and numeracy and those adults who lack these skills are given the opportunity to acquire them.

At the World Assembly of Youth (WAY), we believe that literacy is a passage to an untouchable facet of the world. Literacy is, in fact, not only a basic human right, it is also a fundamental building block for learning as well as an individual empowerment tool. It is the catalyst for social and global progress as we continue to grow.

On this day of International Literacy Day, we, at WAY, would like reiterate our encouragement to all young people to actively volunteer in community services or other related programmes which have a purpose in educating illiterate youth and children around them. So, let us take an oath in working together for tomorrow’s world literate society!

Happy International Literacy Day!