International Publishers Association (IPA) President Bodour Al Qasimi and Secretary General José Borghino were in Georgia on World Book and Copyright Day (23 April) to witness Kuala Lumpur hand the UNESCO World Book Capital title to Tbilisi.

The IPA leadership joined Mayor of Tbilisi Kakha Kaladze, Deputy Mayor of Kuala Lumpur, Anwar bin Mohd Zain and numerous other dignitaries for the ceremony, which every 23 April triggers 12 months with the new city as the global centre of books and reading.

An IPA brainchild, World Book Capital (WBC) was launched in 2001 under the auspices of UNESCO. Today the IPA sits on the WBC Advisory Committee with delegates from the International Authors Forum (IAF) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA).

Representatives of five World Book Capitals past, present and future were in Tbilisi last Friday: Anna Routsi, communications lead for Athens World Book Capital 2018; Bodour Al Qasimi, who led the Sharjah World Book Capital 2019 Advisory Committee; Anwar bin Mohd Zain, representating Kuala Lumpur 2020; Ninia Matcharashvili, director of Tbilisi World Book Capital 2021; and Marisol Schulz Manaut, director of Guadalajara Book Fair and representative of Guadalajara World Book Capital 2022. Additionally, UNESCO’s Head of Publishing and Branding, Ian Denison, was also present as the liaison for the WBC intiative.

Together, they have agreed to establish a World Book Capital Cities Network, to build on the designation’s legacy and ensure experiences are shared with future winners.

Speaking after the ceremony, Al Qasimi said: ‘With its focus on capturing young imaginations through technology, Tbilisi’s exciting World Book Capital program promises to take the initiative in a creative new direction. A huge amount of planning and work goes into hosting this honour at the best of times, so during the pandemic the Georgians have overcome some major hurdles to deliver. I’m sure Ninia Matcharashvili and the WBC team will make Tbilisi and the whole country very proud.’ 


The way ahead for Georgia’s book industry

Separately, the IPA President met the Georgian Publishers and Booksellers Association (GPBA), which plays a leading role in the development of the country’s book sector. Local book industry professionals spoke of the ongoing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, Al Qasimi shared IPA’s vision to help IPA members and the wider book ecosystem build a more resilient, innovative and sustainable publishing industry.

The IPA President’s arrival in Georgia follows visits to Egypt, Kenya, Ivory Coast and Ghana this year, where she has assessed the pandemic-led challenges affecting publishing markets and shared IPA’s plans to help return them to full strength.