Sharjah has been named the UNESCO World Book Capital 2019.
The city in the United Arab Emirates was selected for its "innovative, comprehensive and inclusive bid which offered a community-focused programme of proposals to engage all sections of society, including the large immigrant population”. The programme will also coincide with the launch of Sharjah Publishing City, a new £47m industry hub which was announced last November and is due to open with a soft launch next month.
The agency's general director Irina Bokova’s announcement follows the recommendation of the WBCC Advisory Committee, which includes International Publishers Association (IPA), International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), and UNESCO representatives.
IPA President Michiel Kolman said: "Sharjah has emerged as a regional beacon of culture and literature. Under the visionary leadership of Bodour bint Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, who is a member of the IPA Executive Committee, the Emirates Publishers Association has gone from strength to strength, giving ever greater attention to literacy and reading."
He added: "Sharjah is a deserving winner, and I am sure it will deliver a stunning programme in 2019."
The World Book Capital initiative was originally proposed in 1996 by former IPA President Pere Vicens as a way of celebrating and promoting literacy and reading culture. Its objective is to make books and reading universally accessible and to inculcate a universal love of the written word.
Each year, the city named World Book Capital commits to promote books and reading and to implement a programme of activities for 12 months, starting on World Book and Copyright Day, on 23rd April.
Athens was announced as the selected city for 2019 last September. A few months earlier The European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF) pulled out of its role on the committee in June, after 13 years supporting WBC, due to concerns for freedom of speech when Chinese city Shenzhen and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates were put forward as potential winners.
Sharjah is the 19th World Book Capital city, and follows in the footsteps of 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 (2019).
UNESCO, also known as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is a division of the United Nations based in Paris.