President Nana Akufo-Addo has announced that Accra, Ghana’s capital city, has been named as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Book Capital for the year 2023.
Essentially, cities designated as UNESCO World Book Capital undertake to carry out activities with the aim of encouraging a culture of reading and diffusing the values of reading in all ages and population groups within and outside the designated host nation’s borders.
Through the World Book Capital programme, UNESCO acknowledges the city’s commitment to promoting books and fostering reading during the 12-month period between one World Book and Copyright Day and the next.
Addressing the executive board of UNESCO at its 215th session in Paris, France, on Monday (10 October 2022), President Akufo-Addo said UNESCO’s decision to name Accra as the World Book Capital 2023 demonstrates the organisation’s recognition of ongoing reforms in the creative arts industry in Ghana and the rest of Africa.
“I am happy to inform you that Accra has been named the UNESCO World Book Capital for 2023, making our vibrant city part of the prestigious World Book Capital cities network.
“This is an acknowledgement of the giant strides that Ghana and Africa are making in developing our book and creative arts industry and we thank you for your diverse contribution that made this possible,” President Akufo-Addo said.
“The year-long programme to celebrate this honour done us by UNESCO will commence from 23 April 2023, which is celebrated globally as the World Book and Copyright Day. I wish to use this platform to invite you all to join Ghana in this year-long celebration,” the president said.
In his address, President Akufo-Addo noted that “unfortunately, due to global instability, education has become one of many competing priorities of domestic budgets”.
He said that “development aid to the educational sector is seriously under pressure”, and all UNESCO member states must take every necessary step to ensure that education remains a top priority.
“Indeed, countries reduced their spending on education after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and, at the same time, direct aid to education by bilateral donors fell by some US$359 million, which is not compatible with the objectives of the Addis Ababa action agenda for financing sustainable development and the … Sustainable Development Goals,” the president said.
“We must strive as member states to ensure that education remains a priority in our common development agenda,” he urged.
UNESCO selection process
The advisory committee for the World Book Capitals project – made up of one representative of the International Authors Forum (IAF), the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), the International Publishers Association (IPA) and one UNESCO representative – is in charge of examining and selecting applicant nations’ files.
A special effort is made to involve all regions of the world in turn, in conformity with the principle of geographical balance, and in line with a range of quality criteria. The nominating committee meets once every year.
The UNESCO director general is responsible for designating the cities following both internal and external consultations with the other members of the advisory committee.
The nomination does not imply any financial prize from UNESCO, but conquering the title of World Book Capital City represents an important symbolic acknowledgement, in terms of communication and promotion, and works to good effect for the winner city.
UNESCO seeks to build peace through international co-operation in education, the sciences and culture.
Its programmes contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, defined in the 2030 Agenda adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015.
As early as 1942, still during wartime, the governments of the European countries which were confronting Nazi Germany and its allies met in the United Kingdom for the Conference of Allied Ministers of Education (CAME).
World War II was far from over, yet these countries were looking for ways and means to rebuild their education systems once peace was restored. The project quickly gained momentum and soon acquired a universal character.
New governments, including that of the United States, decided to join in. Upon the proposal of CAME, a United Nations Conference for the establishment of an Educational and Cultural Organisation (ECO/CONF) was convened in London from 1 to 16 November 1945.
Scarcely had the war ended than the conference opened. It brought together representatives of 44 countries who decided to create an organisation that would embody a genuine culture of peace.
In their eyes, the new organisation would establish the “intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind” and thereby prevent the outbreak of another world war.