UNESCO believes that education empowers people, gives them a voice and unlocks their full potential. Education is a building block to well-functioning democracies and peaceful societies. It is a sound investment that helps nations and communities to develop economically and socially. UNESCO works to promote education as a fundamental right. It focuses on improving the quality of education, promoting gender equality, and stimulating experimentation, innovation and policy dialogue.

Despite significant progress in recent years, education remains in crisis in many countries. As we move with lightning speed into the information and knowledge society, countless children, youth and adults fall short of the required level to be empowered members in today’s complex world. The international community has pledged to reverse these trends and achieve Education for All (EFA) by 2015. EFA is at the heart of UNESCO ’s major educational initiatives.

At the World Education Forum held in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000, the international community entrusted UNESCO with coordinating the Education for All movement and with maintaining the collective momentum of all those involved in education. UNESCO ensures that education is high on international agendas, and that human and financial resources are mobilized to help governments meet their EFA commitments.

UNESCO is also the lead agency for the UN Literacy Decade, which began in 2003. The Decade will focus on the literacy needs of adults with the goal of ensuring that people everywhere will be able to play an independent and active role as citizens within their own community and beyond.

UNESCO underscores the importance of learning throughout life with the annual celebration of International Adult Learners' Week. In September, 2002, Canada joined this international movement of over 30 countries in celebrating this event. For more information on International Adult Learners' Week in Canada. IAEW 2012

One of the greatest threats to ensuring equitable access to education is the alarming spread of HIV/AIDS which threatens to wipe out much of the progress made in boosting literacy and general education levels. UNESCO has preventive HIV/AIDS education projects in all regions of the world.

Canada has been at the forefront of innovation in UNESCO’s programmes in education. These range from initiatives in access to basic education, adult education and higher education, to researching and developing participatory approaches to working with young people in the areas of HIV prevention and AIDS awareness. Canada is an important partner in UNESCO’s educational institutes and plays a key role in research and exchanges carried out through the university network of UNESCO Chairs.

The Canadian Commission for UNESCO is actively working with its partners to promote the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014). For more information on the Decade in Canada please visit the Canadian Commission's DESD web page.For more information on UNESCO’s projects and initiatives in the field of Education please visit the Education Section of the UNESCO web site.