At an Exhibition of Ethiopian Books

At an Exhibition of Ethiopian Books

“UNESCO is providing a useful service by designating specific years to highlight basic and urgent problems and by generating world-wide activities to resolve them.

“This year, 1972, has been unanimously declared as an International Book Year by the Sixteenth Session of the UNESCO General Conference. We call upon all citizens to support this event and to participate in the different programmes organised to enhance its objectives.

“By designating 1972 as the International Book Year, UNESCO hopes to underscore the importance of books as one of the major means of promoting the unity and development of mankind. It hopes to enhance the theme of “books for all” and emphasize the need of the indispensability of books in the betterment of man.

“The International Book Year is envisaged at a time in which studies are conducted to find ways and means by which books can be made inexpensively available and widely distributed. It should also assist in encouraging authors and translators to produce more and diverse works. The Year should especially help in cultivating and spreading widely good reading habits among the public.

“In founding UNESCO after the Second World War, the world sought to enhance peace through education and culture. The International Book Year is also aimed at advancing and reflecting this basic purpose, by creating awareness through books of different peoples and cultures.

“In order to celebrate fully the International Book Year, a national organising committee has been established, through the auspices of the UNESCO commission, to organise different activities which shall be carried out during the year. It is necessary that the impact of these activities goes beyond being ceremonial and results in measures which will contribute towards the improvement, enrichment, and greater love of literature and reading.

“Ethiopia is noted for her rich literature and it is gratifying to note, as manifested by the Textbook exhibition organised a year ago by the Ministry of Education and Fine Arts, that books appropriate to present-day needs are increasingly being produced. However the development of books relevant to changing needs and to contemporary society is still at an infant stage. Shortage of trained personnel, finance, and the absence of sophisticated book industries have made it necessary to resort, although temporarily and decreasingly, to the importation of books from abroad.

“Importing books is expensive and is a temporary solution. To publish books for general reading and textbooks rooted in the Ethiopian setting which accommodate the needs of the public should be given priority. Writers have continued responsibility of sharing their knowledge through writing and of drawing satisfaction from the service they render rather than the financial remunerations which they may derive.

“All those involved in the book industry need to take initiatives which will ensure the production of books which could meet the needs of the country.

“It is essential that efforts are exerted to encourage a greater participation of the larger public and to ensure that books are not produced solely to respond to the wishes of the highly educated and the intellectuals. In areas like literacy, in which world-wide endeavours are being made and in which Ethiopia is increasingly participating through functional literacy programmes, the need of follow-up materials is acute and constitutes a major concern. It is not sufficient to enable the individual to read and write if he is to revert back into illiteracy. Generating activities which will help in the production of follow-up material should be given top priority this year when the development of books is focused upon.

“The International Book Year is an appropriate occasion and all those involved in activities related to the production of books should pool their talents together to accelerate the production of relevant reading materials, and to ensure that the appropriate mechanisms for the coordination and promotion of book production and distribution are created and instituted.

“We express Our ardent wish that the International Book Year will yield fruitful results and urge all Ethiopians to support the spirit and aims of this event by participating in its various activities. We also hope that this occasion will help to strengthen and cultivate the love for reading, and the search for ways and means by which the vast majority of Ethiopian people will in the near future have easy access to the treasury of books.”

February 23rd, 1972