UNESCO director general Koïchiro Matsuura announced Beirut’s nomination as “World Book Capital 2009” at the conclusion of the selection committee meeting that began on July 3. Held at UNESCO headquarters, the meeting brought together representatives of the three main professional associations in the book industry and UNESCO.
In a press release issued after the meeting, UNESCO notes that the city of Beirut was selected “in ight of its focus on cultural diversity, dialogue, and tolerance, and its diverse and stimulating program.” The director general was delighted “to see that the city of Beirut, which is facing great challenges in terms of peace and peaceful coexistence, is recognized for its commitment to dialog, which is necessary more then ever in the region, and that the book is able to contribute actively towards this goal.”
Beirut is the ninth city to be designated World Book Capital, after Madrid (2001), Alexandria (2002), New Delhi (2003), Antwerp (2004), Montréal (2005), Turin (2006), Bogotá (2007), and Amsterdam (2008).
According to the press release, every year UNESCO and the three major branches of the global book industry—the International Publishers Association (IPA), the International Booksellers Federation (IBF), and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)—designate a city as World Book Capital for the 12 months between World Book and Copyright Day (April 23). This initiative is a collaborative effort between representatives of principal stakeholders in the book sector and the cities that have committed themselves to promote books and reading.