“Literacy is essential for the success of the new global agenda. It provides men and women with skills to shape the world according to their dreams and aspirations,” UNESCO’s Director-General Irena Bokova told the two-day anniversary event, titled Reading the Past, Writing the Future, which is also this year’s theme for the Day.“In a world under pressure, literacy is a source of dignity and rights. In a world changing quickly, literacy is the foundation for inclusive and resilient societies,” she said. “Literacy is a transformational force, to combat poverty, to advance gender equality, to improve family health, to protect the environment, to promote democratic participation.”Worldwide there are 758 million adults who cannot read or write a simple sentence, two thirds of them women and with the greatest bottlenecks to progress in Africa, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.The event will review achievements and lessons learned over the last half century and identify challenges and fresh solutions.She said that considerable efforts countries made with partners had raised the global adult literacy rate from 61 per cent in 1960 to 85 per cent in 2015 and that global youth literacy had reached an encouraging 90 per cent in 2014. But, she added, much work remained to be done.UNESCO proclaimed 8 September as International Literacy Day in 1966 in order to actively mobilize the international community and to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities and societies.