World Book Capital City

An acknowledgement of the best programme dedicated to books and reading.

© UNESCO/Dominique Roger

Based on the positive experience of World Book and Copyright Day, launched in 1996, UNESCO initiated the concept of World Book Capital City and nominated Madrid as the Capital for Year 2001. Following this successful experience, the General Conference adopted, on 2 November 2001, the 31 C/Resolution 29, establishing the yearly nomination of the Book Capital City.

The International Publishers Associations (IPA-UIE), the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and the International Booksellers Federation (IBF) are associated to this initiative and are therefore represented with UNESCO in the nominating committee, so as to guarantee appropriate representation from the international organizations representing the three major sectors of the book industry.

An agreement was concluded among the partners that, after Madrid (2001), the subsequent capitals would be Alexandria in 2002 and New Delhi in 2003. Then, following public calls for candidatures, the Selection Committee gathered at UNESCO Headquarters and successively nominated the city of Antwerp (Belgium) for 2004, Montreal (Canada) for 2005, Turin (Italy) for 2006, Bogota (Colombia) for 2007, Amsterdam (the Netherlands) for 2008, Beirut (Lebanon) for 2009, Ljubljana (Slovenia) for 2010, Buenos Aires (Argentina) for 2011, Yerevan (Armenia) for 2012 and Bangkok (Thailand) for 2013.

The nomination does not imply any financial prize, but an exclusively symbolic acknowledgement of the best programme dedicated to books and reading.


The candidate programmes, presented or endorsed by the major of the applicant city, shall be aimed at promoting books and fostering reading during the period between one World Book and Copyright Day and the next (23 April). The selection committee will examine the candidate programmes, making a special effort to involve all regions of the world in turn, in accordance with the following criteria:

  • the submission of an activity programme specifically conceived for the World Book Capital City programme and implemented during the city's term as Capital City at the longer term benefits for partners and society of this activity programme;
  • a general outline of expenses planned and a strategy to identify possible financial resources;
  • the degree of municipal, regional, national and international involvement, including professional and non-government organizations, and the impact of the programmes;
  • the quantity and quality of one-time or ongoing activities organized by the applicant city in collaboration with national and international professional organizations representing writers, publishers, booksellers and librarians and in full respect of the various players in the book supply chain and in the scientific and literary community;
  • the quantity and quality of any other noteworthy projects promoting and fostering books and reading;
  • the conformity with the principles of freedom of expression, freedom to publish and to distribute information, as stated in the UNESCO Constitution as well as by Articles 19 and 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and by the Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials (Florence Agreement).


UNESCO has received 11 applications to the “World Book Capital City 2014” nomination:
1. Ganja (Azerbaidjan)
2. Incheon (Republic of Korea)
3. Krakow (Poland)
4. Lyon (France)
5. Moscow (Russian Federation)
6. Oxford (United Kingdom)
7. Port Harcourt (Nigeria)
8. Pula (Croatia)
9. Sharjah (United Arab Emirates)
10. Vilnius (Lithuania)
11. Yaounde (Cameroon)

The Selection Committee convened on 5 July 2012 at UNESCO Headquarters and submitted its recommendation to UNESCO’s Director-General, who officially designated the city of Port Harcourt as World Book Capital 2014.

Port Harcourt has been nominated on account of the quality of its programme, in particular its focus on youth, and the impact it will have on improving Nigeria’s culture of books, reading, writing and publishing to improve literacy rates.

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© 2008 - UNESCO