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Asia-Pacific partner potential from World Congress in Copenhagen

The 31st World Congress held in September in Copenhagen was the best-ever attended, though it has to be said this was mostly because of a very large number of delegates from 20 European countries.

I took every opportunity I could to remind them that the New Zealand delegate had sat in an airplane seat for 29 hours (and at some cost!) to be there.

NZ IBBY was fortunate, through the generosity of an anonymous patron, for a representative to be able to continue attending the world congress. (Previously, Wayne Mills attended Cape Town in 2004, and Dr Libby Limbrick and Tessa Duder accompanied Margaret Mahy to the 2006 congress in Macau).

By the end of four days’ networking, medium to long-term prospects for increased activities and co-operation for New Zealand IBBY within the Asia-Pacific region, particularly with Australia, Malaysia, China and India, were looking much improved.

The organization, as one would expect of the Danes, was superb. Delegates enjoyed the official welcome by Queen Margarethe at Glassalen (The Glass Hall) in the famous Tivoli Gardens, a mayoral reception at the Town Hall, and the farewell dinner at a colourful 19th century circus venue.

In between times, we had three intense days of plenary sessions and papers by eminent presenters from all over the world, not to mention the networking which goes on in between. Not surprisingly, the name and presence of Hans Christian Andersen was repeatedly invoked.

You can read my full report on www.storylines.org.nz, but here are some highlights:

  • The pre-congress workshop, a chance for delegates to share projects involving partnerships, also heard of how reading and books had been employed in Croatia and especially Venezuela (notably the floods in Caracas) to help ease the trauma suffered by thousands of young victims of wars and natural disasters. Not only the children, the schools, libraries and whole communities had been changed. Truly moving and inspirational.

  • Presentation of the 2008 Hans Christian Andersen medals to two ‘grand old men’ of children’s books, author Jurg Schubiger of Germany and illustrator Roberto Innocenti of Italy.

  • Katherine Paterson and 3 other writers presenting Readers’ Theatre, being dramatized readings from their works – an idea proven in American schools and literary festivals.

  • An Asia-Pacific regional meeting where opportunities for sharing events, authors and ideas were discussed – probably for us the most valuable session of the Congress. The group comprised Australia, India, China, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Korea, Japan and New Zealand.

  • A suggestion came from the Europe region to establish a ‘European Capital City of Children’s Literature,’ each one chosen for a year. Why not a world capital, everyone else cried; why not five capitals, one for each of the major regions? Good question!

  • Good to see our 2007 ICBD poster by Zak Waipara featuring on the front cover of the IBBY Annual Report.

  • Likewise, good to see our Honor books displayed – Kate de Goldi and Jacquie Colley’s Clubs, Bernard Beckett’s Genesis, and Kararaina Uatuku’s translation of Melanie Drewery’s Koro’s Medicine.

  • Mr Kang Woo Hyon of Korea, the driving force behind the Nami Island/Nambook success, was announced as committing 10 years’ sponsorship to the Hans Christian Andersen Award, replacing Nissan.

The voting for Executive Committee saw 11 nominees for 10 places. It was noticeable and regrettable that the strong European presence resulted in four Europeans (UK, Germany, Belgium, Spain) and one each from Russia, Palestine, Malaysia, China and Uganda being elected, and the standing member from India missing out.

A Resolution to UNESCO was unanimously passed: that IBBY at its recent General Assembly … issued a declaration that it is essential that international and cultural meetings be freely available to professionals around the world. It is not possible to work for peace, nor to learn to understand one another, nor to exchange ideas and promote cultural understanding freely if some countries’ citizens are excluded from the conversation. We deplore the increasing difficulties for attendees at such conferences to obtain visas and ask UNESCO to address this question with their members.

I came away reinforced in my belief that our IBBY membership, made possible by our similarly generous consortium of publishers, is thoroughly worthwhile for the presence and networking it is providing internationally for New Zealand publishing.

We have undoubtedly acquired our own identity within IBBY, as the ‘most remote’ country of all, as the homeland of Margaret Mahy and as one of the more active of small countries (to our credit an HC Andersen Jury member (twice), Honor Book listings, International Children’s Book Day hosting, Bookbird contributions etc).

Tessa Duder

Visit the IBBY website www.IBBY.org for general information about IBBY and where links will (I believe) take you to the transcripts of the plenary sessions and other papers given at the World Congress.

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