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World Conference Calls For Urgent Action Against Illiteracy

March 5, 1990

JOMTIEN, Thailand (AP) _ Delegates opened an international conference on education Monday urging action to fight illiteracy and saying that the world can not develop with almost 1 billion people unable to read.

″How can we hope to advance on the road to freedom and democracy as long as one in three adults in the world remain illiterate?″ said Frederico Mayor, head of the U.N. Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization.

Mayor said that almost 100 million children in developing countries have no access to basic education, and in some impoverished nations 75 percent of the women are illiterate.

But he said illiteracy also affects wealthy nations.

″Evidence ... suggests that between 10 and 20 percent of the population of so-called advanced societies lack essential basic skills of reading, writing, numeracy and problem solving,″ he said.

Mayor was among the more than 1,200 government and non-government representatives from 155 countries at the World Conference On Education For All, the largest meeting ever held on education. It was largely sponsored by the United Nations.

His call to fight illiteracy was echoed in speeches by Thailand’s Princess Sirindhorn and Bangladesh’s President Hussain Muhamad Ershad.

U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez De Cuellar sent a message to the conference saying that he expected the meeting to ″spur efforts towards drastically reducing illiteracy by the year 2000.″

The United Nations has declared 1990 International Literacy Year.

The conference was held in Jomtien, a beach resort about 68 miles southwest of Bangkok.

The U.S. delegation was headed by Thomas H. Kean, the president of Drew University and former governor of New Jersey.

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