Sharjah (United Arab Emirates) has been 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, the Gulf Today reported.
The city was selected because of the very innovative, comprehensive and inclusive nature of the application, with a community-focused activity program containing creative proposals to engage the very large migrant population.
“I applaud the nomination of Sharjah as the World Book Capital as well as the efforts undertaken by the city in order to make reading available to as many people as possible, in particular the marginalized populations, as a motor for social inclusion, creativity and dialogue” Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, declared.
With the slogan “Read – you are in Sharjah”, the program focuses on six themes: inclusivity, reading, heritage, outreach, publishing and children. Among other things 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 birth new initiatives to meet the challenge of literary creation in the area and in the rest of the Arab world.
The year of celebrations will start on 23 April, 2019, on the World Book and Copyright Day.
Cities designated as UNESCO World Book Capital undertake to promote books and reading and to organize activities over the year. As the nineteenth cities to bear the title since 2001, Sharjah follows Athens (2018) and Conakry (2017). Past winners include Madrid (2001), Alexandria (2002), New Delhi (2003), Anvers (2004), Montreal (2005), Turin (2006), Bogota (2007), Amsterdam(2008), Beirut (2009), Ljubljana (2010), Buenos Aires (2011), Erevan (2012), Bangkok (2013), Port Harcourt (2014), Incheon (2015), Wroclaw (2016).
In this aspect, Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, President of the Emirates Publishers Association and Head of Sharjah’s World Book Capital Organising Committee, said, “We are so proud to have been recognised on a global scale for literary excellence, and having our name being put on the same platform with some of the world’s frontrunners in the world of books and reading.”
“This signals a fruition of the momentous project that was established four decades ago by the vision of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah. His Highness has led efforts of both institutions and individuals working to shape the emirate’s cultural identity with knowledge and books. It is his strong belief in intercultural dialogue as a means to advance local communities that has led to the establishment of a tolerant, culture-loving society in Sharjah,” she added.
Sheikha Bodour continued, “His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah’s insistence on knowledge being a conscientious human choice that goes beyond the arts and literature to include a space for free exchange of ideas within the Arab world, has helped us as a region to consolidate efforts regionally and globally. Sharjah has now reached a point where it can be safely said that it is a driver of knowledge in the region, and, in its achievements, mirrors the wisdom words of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi, ‘Culture is a message to move ahead and purify one’s soul. It is a force that takes us to higher levels of fraternity. Also, education is key to fuelling progress to see greater horizons’.”