Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, said that her election as President of the International Publishers Association (IPA), 2021 – 2022, is attributed to the historical and cultural status boasted by Sharjah as a prestigious destination for prominent Arab intellectuals and scholars thanks to the visionary vision of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.
She emphasised that Sheikh Sultan has “always been an ardent advocate of the emirate’s cultural legacy.”
Sheikha Bodour has become the first woman in the Arab world to be appointed President of IPA since the organisation was founded in 1896. The announcement was made in November at the virtual IPA General Assembly Congress.
With her appointment, Sheikha Bodour becomes the second woman to occupy the position after Argentina’s Ana Maria Cabanellas who served as Vice President and President of the Association from 2004 to 2008.
“Knowledge has always been the cornerstone of the emirate’s social fabric and a salient feature of its relations with the rest of the world,” she told the Emirates News Agency (WAM).
“I grew up in this fertile environment, which shaped my values and convictions; I grew up believing that publishing is the gateway for all other activities and safeguards their success and sustainability,” she said.
“It is also the foundation for overcoming poverty, illiteracy, conflicts and underdevelopment.”
Sheikha Bodour added that her appointment as President of IPA provides an international recognition of Sharjah’s strong cultural, intellectual legacy, noting that it is also a significant milestone and responsibility that will contribute to the development of the book industry and help the IPA’s members keep pace with global developments.
“I will work with my colleagues at the IPA to encourage convergence between cultures and peoples and focus on commonalities, as well as reinforce the culture of cooperation and partnership in facing the challenges besetting the publishing industry, to enable it to perform its mandate as a key tool for achieving development and prosperity,” she explained.
Sheikha Bodour also praised those involved and working in the publishing and knowledge sector from around the world, noting that the industry is like no other, as it defines the knowledge of various world communities and their experiences.
She pointed out that books are messages denoting cultural convergence and common understanding sent by a nation to the outer world.
“Let’s not forget that the publishing industry is essentially related to translation, which makes published content a common language between peoples and various cultures,” she said.
On her future role in addressing regional and international issues facing the publishing industry, Sheikha Bodour stated, “The coronavirus pandemic has largely affected the publishing industry, but, at the same time it has provided publishers with an opportunity to revise their work, consider future orientations, and adapt and prepare for them.
“Therefore, my key role in the coming period will be to draft ideas and programmes that will help publishers overcome the challenges posed by the crisis and gradually advance to the future.
“There are also common traditional challenges faced by publishers around the world, so we shall address these challenges by developing methods that will support the publishing industry.”
Sheikha Bodour stressed that she will continue the efforts made by previous presidents in the coming years, in coordination with various publishing associations, to promote the concept of freedom in publishing and adopt relevant legislations for its implementation, as well as defend intellectual property rights, which, she said, is a cornerstone for the success of creative industries.
She then pointed out that she will help introduce efficient solutions to key challenges facing the publishing sector, in terms of accessing local and international markets, marketing products and enabling publishers to showcase their publications in international events and exhibitions.
“We will launch dialogues aimed at reducing publishing costs, to make publications available to all segments of society, while enabling publishers to secure profits. I am confident that there is a lot to be done in order to promote dialogue on publishing between public and private entities,” Sheikha Bodour continued.
She also stressed that there are specific challenges facing the Arab region, including the feeble presence of Arab cultural production globally, unlike foreign books written in English which they are read in most countries.
“There will be more efforts to streamline translation contracts and publishing rights in coordination with all relevant authorities,” she said.
“The influence of knowledge is cumulative by nature and its outcomes do not show themselves quickly, but they are sustainable in the long-term; this manifests itself for example in the happiness of refugees when receiving books, which is one of their basic rights, in addition to having access to knowledge.”
“Conflicts are weighed on their victims, mainly refugees, as they struggle with anxiety and fear for their destiny,” she affirmed, noting that reading can help refugees adapt to their host communities, especially the youth and children, as well as help children use their imagination, distract them from the difficulties of reality, and give them a new perception of a promising future.
Sheikha Bodour highlighted the role of national cultural projects in encouraging publishers and writers to engage in the publishing industry, stressing that cultural events and programmes launched by governments are an opportunity for publishers to meet and showcase their productions to the public and sign ownership and distribution agreements.
On her appointment as the IPA’s presidency, Sheikha Bodour affirmed that the person who will head the publishing industry and represent the IPA must spearhead the efforts made to ensure diversity and equal opportunities, away from any bias in terms of gender or any other category.
“When the IPA President is elected, is means that people choose the right candidate, based on competences and skills, and not on gender,” she added.
The IPA President-elect founded the Emirates Publishers’ Association (EPA) in 2009, which gained full membership of IPA in 2012.
Sheikha Bodour’s continuous efforts in boosting Sharjah’s onward journey of cultural development by enhancing its publishing landscape played a vital role in the selection of Sharjah as the UNESCO World Book Capital 2019, whose Advisory Committee she headed.
She also founded the Kalimat Group (KG) in 2007, which is today the regional frontrunner in the field of Arabic children’s publishing.
In addition to these achievements and roles, she is also the founder and patron of the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY), UAE’s national section of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY).