UNESCO and Sharjah signed a Memorandum of Understanding that confirmed Sharjah’s designation as World Book Capital for 2019.
The signing ceremony was conducted in the presence of UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, Her Highness Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, His Excellency Mr Hussain al Hammadi, Minister of Education in the UAE, and President of the UAE National Commission, and Abdullah Ali Misbah Al-Nuaimi, Permanent Representative of the UAE to UNESCO.
In June this year, Sharjah (United Arab Emirates) was named World Book Capital for the year 2019 by the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee, which met at the Headquarters of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) at La Haye.
Each year, UNESCO and the international organizations representing the two major sectors of the book industry—the International Publishers Association (IPA), and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)—select the World Book Capital for a one-year period, effective 23 April each year.
This initiative, in addition to the celebration of World Book and Copyright Day, represents a collaborative undertaking by key stakeholders in the publishing world and cities to promote books and literacy.
Sharjah was selected to become the World Book Capital in 2019 due to the highly innovative, comprehensive and inclusive nature of the application, which contains a community-focused activity programme and, in particular, very creative proposals to engage the very large migrant population.
With the slogan "Read - you are in Sharjah", the programme focuses on six themes: inclusivity, reading, heritage, outreach, publishing and children. Among other events, there will be a conference on freedom of speech, a contest for young poets, workshops for creating Braille books and tactile books as well as many events for Sharjah's multi-ethnic population.
The city's objective is to foster a culture of reading in the United Arab Emirates and create new initiatives to meet the challenge of literary creation in the area and in the rest of the Arab world.
The Director-General congratulated Sharjah on the designation as World Book Capital that comes almost twenty years after Sharjah was named as the 'Cultural Capital of the Arab World' by UNESCO in 1998. She noted with pleasure that “this most recent designation reinforces the collaboration between UNESCO and the UAE, more particularly with Sharjah in the same spirit of the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture to celebrate heritage heroes, individuals, groups or institutions who disseminate greater knowledge of Arab art and culture.” She spoke very highly of Sharjah’s initiatives to promote books and literacy citing Sharjah’s annual International Book Fair, which has existed for over 30 years, as an outstanding opportunity that brings together major international publishers and authors.
Speaking on this historical occasion Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi explained “For centuries, Sharjah played a key role in the cultural and artistic exchanges that took place between the major centers of civilization. We have long held the view that the interaction of people and the free exchange of ideas improves relations between cultures. Being named UNESCO’s World Book Capital 2019 confirms our commitment to continuing this tradition, and enables a more open dialogue regionally and internationally which promotes gradual changes on fundamental issues such as freedom of expression.”
Sharjah is the 19th city to become World Book Capital. It is preceded by Madrid (2001), Alexandria (2002), New Delhi (2003), Antwerp (2004), Montreal (2005), Turin (2006), Bogota (2007), Amsterdam (2008), Beirut (2009), Ljubljana (2010), Buenos Aires (2011), Yerevan (2012), Bangkok (2013), Port Harcourt (2014), Incheon (2015), Wroclaw (2016), Conakry (2017) and Athens (2018).