As global symbols of social progress, books have always been targets for those who reject freedom and tolerance, the United Nations agency mandated with promoting education said today on World Book and Copyright Day, calling the occasion an opportunity to recognize the power of books to change lives for the better.
“In recent months, we have seen attacks on children at school and the public burning of books,” Irina Bokova, Director-General of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said today.
“In this context, our duty is clear – we must redouble efforts to promote the book, the pen, the computer, along with all forms of reading and writing, in order to fight illiteracy and poverty, to build sustainable societies, to strengthen the foundations of peace,” she added.
World Book and Copyright Day – marked around the world on 23 April – was proclaimed by UNESCO in 1995 and is observed by millions of people in over 100 countries by schools, public organizations and private businesses.
With 175 million adolescents in the world – mostly girls and young women – unable to read a single sentence, UNESCO said it is committed to leading the fight against illiteracy, and for it to be included as a crucial ingredient of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
“Literacy is the door to knowledge, essential to individual self-esteem and empowerment. Books, in all forms, play an essential role here,” Ms. Bokova stated.
UNESCO is encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity.
“Let us join together to celebrate books as the embodiment of creativity, the desire to share ideas and knowledge, to inspire understanding, dialogue and tolerance,” the Director-General said.
Each year, UNESCO and the international organizations representing the three major sectors of the book industry – publishers, booksellers and libraries – select the World Book Capital for a one-year period, effective 23 April each year. This year the city of Incheon in Republic of Korea was chosen in recognition of its programme to promote reading among people and underprivileged sections of the population.
The Organization is also working with the International Publishers Association, the International Booksellers' Federation and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions to support careers in publishing, bookshops, libraries and schools.
The Day – 23 April – is a symbolic date for world literature. It is on this date in 1616 that Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors, such as Maurice Druon, Vladimir Nabokov and Manuel Mejía Vallejo.