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For Immediate Release
September 18, 2006

Fact Sheet: Encouraging International Cooperation to Change Lives, Build Free Societies Through Literacy

     Fact sheet White House Conference on Global Literacy

The White House Conference on Global Literacy

On September 18, Mrs. Laura Bush Will Host The First-Ever White House Conference On Global Literacy At The New York Public Library In New York City.  The Conference will highlight a variety of successful literacy programs and encourage sustained global and country-level leadership to promote literacy.

  • Mrs. Bush Continues To Underscore The President’s Commitment To Building Free Societies Through Literacy.  The White House Conference on Global Literacy is a result of Mrs. Bush’s visits to countries around the world where she witnessed the power of literacy to improve lives, especially for women and girls.
  • By Sharing Best Practices, Nations Will Learn From Each Other And Turn Good Ideas Into Successful Programs.  Panel presentations at the White House Conference will showcase literacy programs now being used in transitioning and developing countries with high illiteracy rates, including some of the work that the U.S. government, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and private/local entities have supported around the world.  The Conference will illustrate to First Ladies, First Spouses, Ministers of Education, and national decision-makers from all over the world that these successful literacy programs can easily be replicated in their countries.
  • The White House Conference Will Urge Continuation Of This Important Work With Regional Conferences In Other Nations.  Building on the work of the White House Conference on Global Literacy, UNESCO will host a series of regional conferences. Within the framework of the U.N. Literacy Decade and UNESCO's Literacy Initiative For Empowerment (LIFE), the regional conferences will address literacy challenges specific to various regions. They will gather regional experiences, disseminate effective practices, create cooperation among stakeholders, mobilize partners and resources, and promote literacy.
  • The White House Panels Will Focus On Three Vital Areas For Literacy

    • Mother-Child Literacy And Intergenerational Learning ensures that as mothers - our first teachers - learn to read, they can impart those skills to their children, beginning a cycle of literacy that continues from one generation to the next. 
    • Literacy For Health ensures that adults can make informed, wise decisions to protect the health of their families.
    • Literacy For Economic Self-Sufficiency ensures that adults, especially women, ­can learn basic business skills that generate income, foster independence, and boost local economies.

    Background: Illiteracy Is A Global Challenge

    According to UNESCO, more than 771 million adults around the world cannot read.  Eighty-five percent of them live in just 35 countries, concentrated in regions of poverty. More than two-thirds of these illiterate adults are women.

    • The U.S. Is Committed To Literacy With Our Global Partners.  As Honorary Ambassador for the U.N. Literacy Decade, Mrs. Bush will host the White House Conference on Global Literacy in partnership with the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Agency for International Development and U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
    • International Representation at The White House Conference.  Panelists and moderators at the Conference will represent Mali, South Africa, Afghanistan, Bolivia, Egypt, Brazil, India and Burkina Faso.  Over 30 nations will be represented by their First Spouse and over 40 nations will be represented by their Ministers of Education.

For more information on this initiative, please visit


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