Since 1995, coinciding with the celebration in Catalonia of St. George's Day, is celebrated worldwide every April 23 World Book Day and Authors' Rights in order to promote reading, the publishing industry and the protection of intellectual property.
World Book and Copyright Day 2012 focuses on translation as UNESCO marks the 80th anniversary of Index Translationum, a database containing information about published translations provided by national libraries, translators, linguists, researchers and databases worldwide. Established in 1932 by the League of Nations, the Index is the Organization’s oldest programme. In fact, it is older than the UNESCO itself which was founded in 1946.
The electronic database of the Index Translationum numbers over two million entries concerning 500,000 authors and 78,000 publishers in 148 countries. Searching this unique database reveals, for example, that Agatha Christie, Jules Verne and William Shakespeare are the world’s most translated authors, according to data collected since 1979. The list of the world’s most translated authors is highly diverse as it features, for example, Lenin (5th position), Barbara Cartland (6th), John Paull II (22nd), Franz Kafka (40th), Plato (43rd) and Gabriel García Márquez (49th).
Also on 23April, UNESCO will launch festivities in Yerevan, designated as 2012 World Book Capital. The Armenian capital inherits the distinction from Buenos Aires while Bangkok has been selected as World Book Capital for 2013. The label of World Book Capital City is awarded yearly in recognition of a city’s municipal programmes promoting books and reading. Designated cities retain the distinction for 365 days, starting on 23 April.
Our relationship with books determines, to a large extent, our relationship with culture. On 23 April, for World Book and Copyright Day, UNESCO invites everyone to rally around books and support those who make their living from them and those who make them live. From scrolls to codices, manuscripts to printed matter and tablet computers, books have changed in appearance many times over the centuries. In all formats, books embody ideas and values considered by men and women to be worth passing on. They are valuable tools for knowledge-sharing, mutual understanding and openness to others and to the world.
UNESCO wishes to provide everyone with the means to access this tremendous potential. The effort begins at school, through a determined fight against illiteracy among children and adults, and continues in the strengthening of cultural policies. Without quality education, the pages of a book are silent. Books rarely work alone: they prompt us to read other books, which reveal other treasures. Without equitable access to the content and resources of physical or virtual libraries, the power of books wanes and their diversity diminishes. The book chain is based on fragile balances and requires active vigilance and instruments to support it. The implementation of UNESCO conventions such as the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions is one example. Copyright protection is a cardinal principle of this action and a compass in the ever-changing cultural landscape.
In 2012, World Book and Copyright Day is concerned with the theme of translation. We are celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Index Translationum, the world bibliography of translations, managed by UNESCO. This unique instrument is a formidable tool for the dissemination and monitoring of global cultural flows. Faced with increasing numbers of publications, Member States must join forces to build a more comprehensive, efficient and open instrument. Translation is the first step towards the rapprochement of peoples, and is also a decentralizing experience, teaching diversity and dialogue. Translation is one of the driving principles of our creative diversity, which enriches each language through contact with all the others.
Our world needs to understand the diversity of cultures and to develop much stronger intercultural skills in the minds of every man and woman. We need these skills in order to live together in heterogeneous societies. We need them in order to address our common challenges together. On 23 April, UNESCO launches the celebrations of World Book and Copyright Day in Yerevan, in Armenia, World Book Capital for 2012. On this day I call upon all of UNESCO’s partners, in universities, Chairs and Associated Schools to remember that books are a force and an opportunity to be placed in the hands of all.