Sharjah, a city in the United Arab Emirates has been named as 'the World Book Capital' for 2019 by the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova for the quality of its literary and cultural activities and for its efforts to make books accessible to the entire population of the nation.
Bokova took the decision on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee that met at the Headquarters of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) at La Haye.
Speaking on the occasion, Irina Bokova said, “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 marginalised populations, as a motor for social inclusion, creativity and dialogue.”
The city was chosen because of its innovative, comprehensive and inclusive nature of the application, with a community-focused activity programme containing creative proposals to engage the very large migrant population.
Key Highlights of the programme
• The programme runs with a slogan ‘Read - you are in Sharjah’.
• It focuses on six themes: inclusivity, reading, heritage, outreach, publishing and children.
• It would include a conference on freedom of speech, a contest for young poets, workshops for creating Braille books and tactile books as well as many other events for Sharjah's multi-ethnic population.
• The main objective is to foster a culture of reading in the United Arab Emirates and to give birth to new initiatives to meet the challenge of literary creation in the area and in the rest of the Arab world.
• The city also hosts Children's Reading Festival (SCRF), which is a premier cultural event in the region.
Besides this, the city would also be launching Sharjah Publishing City, a space that would be entirely dedicated to publishing and printing. It will be the first place of its kind in the region, specifically developed to meet the needs of companies and institutions operating in the publishing field. Its main aim would be to reinforce the book industry by encouraging the widespread production and dissemination of publications in the Arab world.
With the nomination, Sharjah can add yet another name to its already existing portfolio of milestones such as Capital of Arab Culture (1998), Capital of Islamic Culture (2014) and Capital of Arab Tourism (2015). The city is also the first in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the third in the Arab world and the Middle East, to have received this recognition.
Overall, nineteen cities have born the title since its initiation in 2001, which 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), Conakry (2017) and Athens (2018).