International Literacy Year


Cyprus - stamp International Literacy Year 1990In 1987, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 1990 as International Literacy Year. The event intended to be not so much as a celebration of progress as an urgent call to action as part of a worldwide campaign to eradicate illiteracy by the year 2000. With the population of illiterate adults at that time approaching 900 million, the challenge was indeed a formidable one.


Though more widespread in developing countries, the scourge of illiteracy affects the industrialized world as well. In some countries, those who are either fully or functionally illiterate represent nearly one quarter of the adult population.


A symptom of poverty, unemployment and social alienation, illiteracy has a tremendous impact on individuals and on society as a whole. For the individual, it means being deprived of the basic human right to learning, knowledge and communication. For society, illiteracy exacts a terrible toll in financial and human resources.


Poster for International Literacy Year by UNESCOSuch a tragic and far-searching problem requires concerted action from all quarters. In addition to efforts begun in the 1970s, there are now many new initiatives in the areas of education, promotion and public awareness.


In March 1990, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), UNESCO, and the World Bank sponsored the World Conference on Education for All, which was held in Thailand. The conference was the first such world meeting to bring together literacy providers and educators from such diverse sectors as government delegations, nongovernmental agencies, and financing organizations around the world. The conference was unique in that it emphasized dialogue and discussion of policies among the delegates rather than lectures or formal papers.




Article 'Launching the possible dream' from UN Chronicle, March 1990.

Article 'Literacy - a matter of social justice' on literacy in Australia from Family Matters, 27 November 1990.

The activities on literacy by UNESCO.

All the International Years proclaimed by the General Assembly.



Stamp catalogue


Bangladesh                                   10 April 1990

German Democratic Republic         24 July 1990

Jersey                                         26 June 1990

Netherlands Antilles                      8 August 1990

Netherlands Antilles                      31 October 1990

Niger                                           27 February 1990

Suriname                                     19 January 1990

Tunisia                                         8 September 1990









Up - Home



last revised: 8 February 2008