The IPA’s Al Qasimi at Frankfurt: A Voice in the World’s Development Dialogue

In News by Porter Anderson

The International Publishers Association’s top officers were engaged throughout Frankfurt Book Fair, IPA’s president, Bodour Al Qasimi, leading the organization’s activities and messaging.

IPA president Bodour Al Qasimi addresses the Federation of European Publishers’ meeting at Frankfurter Buchmesse, at which new signatories to the IPA’s ‘Inspire Charter’ on sustainability were welcomed. Image: Nabs Ahmedi

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

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As our October 12 story indicated, the International Publishers Association (IPA) maintained its traditional heavy schedule of events at Frankfurter Buchmesse, some of them open to interested trade visitors and the public, and others exclusively serving its roughly 90 member-associations from more than 70 countries.

Now a hallmark of her presidency, trade visitors at Frankfurt saw a galloping pace from IPA president Bodour Al Qasimi, much of the programming in which she appeared representing a deepening partnership with Frankfurt that makes sense on many levels. The organization is managing at this point a broadening portfolio of initiatives, projects, programs, and efforts in which world publishing’s professionals are engaged.

Al Qasimi’s administration is marked by a drive to see publishing’s voice heard in the world’s broader development dialogue. The goal is to ensure that books, reading, and the international publishing industry have a recognized role in the broadest fields of advancement.

Anyone who thought that the arrival of an international medical emergency would mean a slowdown at the 125-year-old Geneva-based IPA by now has been relieved of that misconception. As Al Qasimi said with a gracious laugh during a pre-Frankfurt appearance with Frankfurt president and CEO Juergen Boos, she certainly walked into an interesting time in office–starting with her election a year ago, when she was confirmed as the new president for a two-year term of office, opening her energetic round of leadership in pandemic-era January 2021.

After being at the Opening Ceremony on October 19 in the Messe Frankfurt Festhalle, Al Qasimi was on a panel, The Impact of COVID-19 on the Global Publishing Industry, an event put together by Buchmesse and the World Intellectual Property Organization  (WIPO). That program was seen on the large screen in the Messe Frankfurt Agora and online, originating from the new 500-square-meter production facility in Hall 4, Frankfurt Studio.

In that event, Al Qasimi was joined by WIPO’s chief economist, Carsten Fink, in stressing the point that an effective way to mitigate the uneven post-pandemic recovery projected for publishing hubs and smaller frontier markets in various parts of the world lies in comprehensive collection and usage of data relating to the size, impact, and contributions of all national publishing ecosystem players worldwide. This is part of a strong push across many agencies and players for newly aligned, harmonized reportage among the markets of the world, so that a more coherent understanding of challenges and successes can be interpreted at international scale.

Those observations coincided with the presentation of the WIPO Publishing Industry Report on which WIPO and IPA have partnered since 2016. Al Qasimi noted that the data and statistics would support the IPA’s policy advocacy and serve as a key resource for publishers to keep up to date with global markets.

Climate and Sustainability

From left, former International Publishers Association president Michiel Kolman, the present president Bodour Al Qasimi, the current vice-president Karine Pansa, and secretary-general José Borghino at a Frankfurter Buchmesse event. Image: Nabs Ahmedi

Al Qasimi also led an “IPA Sustainability Summit,” the opening set of talks on the role that publishing can play in tackling two urgent challenges—sustainability and climate change.

In this case, you may recall the effort we announced on September 30, in which the IPA became part of a consortium of advocacy agencies coming together to put a statement together ahead of  the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 (October 31 to November 12) in Glasgow.

Al Qasimi was focused on the pressing fact that “There needs to be an attitudinal shift from viewing the industry’s impact as indirect and informational to include more active contributions.”

Obviously this is one of the most important features of Al Qasimi’s work with the IPA–not least because it reaches beyond the immediate purview of the publishing world. Al Qasimi told this gathering that IPA is in a unique position to ensure that the voice of publishing is included in climate crisis and sustainability discussions and the broader international development dialogue. She proposed that industry players need to come together to define more precisely what “sustainable publishing” means to them as stakeholders “demand more accountability from publishing on environmental, social, and governance commitments.”

You may remember that the organizations engaged in this collaborative effort are:

FEP, and the IPA’s Inspire Charter

Members and staffers of the International Publishers Association gather for a photo during Frankfurter Buchmesse 2021. Image: Nabs Ahmedi

Our readers will recall that the Federation of European Publishers (FEP) was returning to its annual in-person “Rendez-Vous” meeting during Frankfurt.

Al Qasimi was on hand for that, to engage in discussions of issues in the European publishing markets, and to welcome new signatories to the IPA’s Inspire Charter, which now is reported to have more than 50 endorsements from trade associations, book fairs, and other stakeholders, as well as the member-associations of IPA.

This effort, too, is about sustainability, although this one is less focused on the climate crisis, per se, and more on the broader range of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

There also was a 125th-anniversary reception and dinner during Frankfurt, at which Al Qasimi thanked the organization’s national associations, partners, supporters, and dedicated industry professionals who have worked with the organization for so long to develop the resilience and longstanding sustainability of international understanding.

Former and current IPA leadership figures at Frankfurter Buchmesse include, from left, former president Youngsuk YS-Chi, current vice-president Karine Pansa and current president Bodour Al Qasimi, and former presidents Ann Maria Cabanellas and Michiel Kolman. Image: Nabs Ahmedi

More from Publishing Perspectives on the International Publishers Association is here. More on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the world media partner of the International Publishers Association.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.