Building peace in the minds of men and women

UNESCO World Book Capital

UNESCO World Book Capital

Statue of two children reading in front of the National Library in Madrid. 
This work by Manuel García Buciños bears the inscription: “Spanish booksellers, the book and its creators”.

The city of Madrid (Spain) has been the first city to be named World Book Capital in 2001

What is UNESCO World Book Capital?

Cities designated as UNESCO World Book Capital undertake to carry out activities with the aim of encouraging a culture of reading and diffusing its values in all ages and population groups in and out of the national borders. Through the World Book Capital programme, UNESCO acknowledges the cities commitment for promoting books and fostering reading during a 12 months period between one World Book and Copyright Day and the next (23 April).

The Advisory Committee made up of one representative of the International Authors Forum (IAF), the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), the International Publishers Association (IPA) and one UNESCO representative is in charge for the examination and selection of the applications files. A special effort is made to involve all regions of the world in turn, in conformity with the principle of geographic balance, and following different quality criteria. The nominating committee meets once every year. 

The Director-General of UNESCO is responsible for the designation of the cities following both internal and external consultations with the other members of the Advisory Committee.

The nomination does not imply for UNESCO any financial prize, but conquering the title of World Book Capital City represents an important symbolic acknowledgement, also effective, for the winner city, in terms of communication and promotion.

Guadalajara named World Book Capital 2022

The city was selected for its comprehensive plan for policies around the book to trigger social change, combat violence and build a culture of peace.

Read more

Call for applications 2024

The Call for Applications 2024 is open to all cities of UNESCO Member States. All applications must be submitted by email using the standard Application Form.


Origins and rationale

Six years after the launching of the World Book and Copyright Day (23 April), the professional organizations of the book chain had the idea, inspired the successful experience of the city of Madrid, to nominate the best city programme aimed at promoting books during the period between one "Book Day" and the next.

Following a proposal of Spain, supported by many other countries, the UNESCO General Conference decided, on 2 November 2001, that the Organization would grant its moral and intellectual support to the conception and implementation of this initiative, by inviting the international professional organizations of the book chain to work together for its concretisation.

The first UNESCO World Book Capital designated prior to the adoption of 31 C/Resolution 29 was Madrid (Spain) in 2001.

An agreement was concluded among the partners that, after Madrid, the subsequent capitals would be Alexandria in 2002 and New Delhi in 2003.

Then, following public calls for candidatures, the Advisory Committee successively nominated the city of :

  • Antwerp (Belgium) for 2004
  • Montreal (Canada) for 2005
  • Turin (Italy) for 2006
  • Bogota (Colombia) for 2007
  • Amsterdam (The Netherlands) for 2008,
  • Beirut (Lebanon) for 2009
  • Ljubljana (Slovenia) for 2010
  • Buenos Aires (Argentina) for 2011
  • Yerevan (Armenia) for 2012)
  • Bangkok (Thailand) for 2013
  • Port Harcourt (Nigeria) in 2014
  • Incheon (Republic of Korea) in 2015
  • Wroclaw (Poland) in 2016
  • Conakry (Republic of Guinea) in 2017
  • Athens (Greece) in 2018
  • Sharjah (United Arab Emirates) in 2019
  • Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) in 2020
  • Tbilisi (Georgia) in 2021
  • Guadalajara (Mexico) in 2022.



Wroclaw 2016


What are the nomination criteria?

The Advisory Committee examines the candidate programmes in accordance with the following criteria:

  • the submission of an activity programme specifically conceived for the World Book Capital City programme and implemented during the city's term as Capital City at the longer term benefits for partners and society of this activity programme;
  • a general outline of expenses planned and a strategy to identify possible financial resources;
  • the degree of municipal, regional, national and international involvement, including professional and non-government organizations, and the impact of the programmes;
  • the quantity and quality of one-time or ongoing activities organized by the applicant city in collaboration with national and international professional organizations representing writers, publishers, booksellers and librarians and in full respect of the various players in the book supply chain and in the scientific and literary community;
  • the quantity and quality of any other noteworthy projects promoting and fostering books and reading; 
  • the conformity with the principles of freedom of expression, freedom to publish and to distribute information, as stated in the UNESCO Constitution as well as by Articles 19 and 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and by the Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials (Florence Agreement).

All text on this page "World Book Capital" including official documents are available under Open Access (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO license).