The State of the World's Children 1999

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Summary

Education For All: Making the right a reality

From right to reality. Copyright © UNICEF/1562/Witlin "More than 130 million children of primary school age in developing countries, including 73 million girls, are growing up without access to basic education," says Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. The world can no longer afford such an enormous waste of human potential.

Nearly a billion people, two thirds of them women, will enter the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names -- much less operate a computer or understand a simple application form. And they will live, as now, in more desperate poverty and poorer health than most of those who can. They are the world's functional illiterates -- and their numbers are growing.

The consequences of illiteracy are profound, even potentially life-threatening. They flow from the denial of a fundamental human right: the right to education, proclaimed in agreements ranging from the 50-year-old Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, the world's most universally embraced human rights instrument. This right has been a topic of discussion in numerous international meetings over the past 50 years and in every major United Nations summit and conference of the past decade.

The State of the World's Children 1999 report, by Carol Bellamy, calls for an expansion of the education revolution that is occurring throughout the world. This revolution has two standards -- access to high-quality learning and a child rights approach. The report highlights key examples both of individual schools and of entire national education systems that are putting these standards into practice. All that is lacking, the report argues, is the political will and the requisite resources to extend these educational benefits to all the world's children.

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