Sharjah brings together 10 Arab countries for ‘ARM of IBBY’

SHARJAH,11th May, 2023 (WAM) — In a bid to advance the literary and cultural contributions of the Arab IBBY chapters, bring more nation’s in the region into the IBBY’s folds, and boost regional collaboration in supporting the development of children’s literature, the UAE Board on Books for Young People (UAEBBY) hosted IBBY’s first Arab Regional Meeting (ARM) on Wednesday at the House of Wisdom in Sharjah, bring together representatives from 10 countries, including 3 existing and 7 prospective IBBY members.

The ground-breaking meeting reinforces the UAEBBY’s leading efforts to strengthen the Arab world’s presence and contributions to IBBY’s overarching objectives.

In the lead up to this meeting, the entity collaborated with the International Board and communicated with cultural ministries and relevant institutions across all participating countries to facilitate their engagement.

Marwa Al Aqroubi, President of the UAEBBY, chaired the meeting, which was attended by Carolina Ballester, Executive Director of IBBY; and representatives from IBBY’s Arab chapters, including Nadia El Kohly, Egypt; Hadil Miqdadi, Jordan; Shereen Kreidieh, Lebanon; in addition to representatives from seven Arab countries looking to join IBBY.

The participation of non-member countries, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, and Oman, reflects their keenness to support and advance children’s and YA literature in their countries and in the Arab world as a whole.

The meeting introduced participants, especially non-members, to IBBY’s vision, goals, and various activities and initiatives in promoting and developing children’s and young adults’ literature among member countries and beyond.

Participants also learned about IBBY’s membership application criteria and benefits, including participation in leading international awards, programmes and industry events, as well as support the guidance each member country will receive to develop their landscape for children’s and YA book sector.

In her keynote speech, Al Aqroubi recounted the UAEBBY’s role in developing the children’s and young adult book industry in the UAE and the region, lauding the cooperation they have enjoyed with IBBY that have given birth to leading projects and programmes that serve common cultural and human development goals envisioned by H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and and also reinforces the support of H.H. Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA), towards investing in young generations through expanding their knowledge and skills.

“We are proud that the UAEBBY is hosting IBBY’s first Arab Regional Meeting. This gathering is the fruit of 13 years of dedicated efforts, which were started by Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, our founder and honorary president, with the founding of the UAEBBY.

The meeting coincides with the Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, one of the largest and most important festivals dedicated to children and youth in the region and the world”.

“This meeting presents a valuable opportunity for networking and learning, as well as discussing ways to collaborate and partner to enhance children’s and YA literature in the region. We’ve discussed innovative solutions to resolve the challenges faced by the regional industry, in line with Sharjah’s vision to advance it and also build cultural bridges between peoples and civilisations around the world,” she added.

Al Aqroubi also stressed the importance of joint efforts to promote the production of books for young people in the Arab region, emphasising that the region has the talent required to produce high quality and engaging content, and noted that achieving this goal would enrich not just the region but also enrich children’s libraries worldwide.

For her part, Carolina Ballester praised the UAEBBY’s leadership in successfully organising this meeting, and lauded regional efforts of Arab IBBY chapters to realising IBBY’s overarching goals.

She also encouraged non-member participants to include sustainable and diverse initiatives and projects in their membership application, stressing that financial sustainability is a vital criteria taken into consideration by IBBY.

During the meeting, representatives of IBBY’s Arab chapters expressed their appreciation for the continuous support of the UAEBBY.

They also presented an overview of their achievements during the past years and the challenges that require practical and effective solutions to advance their role in promoting a reading culture and expanding the reach of children’s and youth books to a broader audience.

They stressed that despite their difficulties, especially in organising required funding to develop their initiatives and achieve their goals, the cooperation with IBBY and its members and learning from their individual experiences and expertise has helped them overcome several challenges.

Prior to the meeting, the visiting delegations toured HoW, where they were briefed on the unique features of the futuristic library and social hub.

They visited the Silent Books Exhibition currently ongoing at the iconic cultural and artistic hub. The visiting delegation lauded HoW’s efforts in instilling a love of reading, culture and arts in UAE communities.

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