Melissa Fleming To Speak in Mexico at IPA’s Publishers Congress

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The IPA’s 34th biennial International Publishers Congress will feature a keynote from UN under-secretary-general Melissa Fleming.

Melissa Fleming, United Nations under-secretary-general for global communications, is to be a keynote speaker at the December IPA International Publishers Congress in Guadalajara. Here, Fleming attends a briefing by US permanent representative Linda Thomas-Greenfield on the situation in Gaza, February 2. Image: UN Photo: Manuel Elías

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

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The UN’s Melissa Fleming on Sustainability
As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, plans were announced late last year for the 34th International Publishers Congress from the International Publishers Association (IPA) amid news of the world body’s surge in influence, its membership rising to 101 associations in 81 world publishing markets—meaning that the service range of these book-business organizations is estimated to reach an aggregate population of some 5.6 billion people.

This year’s iteration of the biennial congress, set for Guadalajara and running December 3 to 6now in early-bird ticketing discounts—thus has the potential to be the organization’s largest yet. That makes its venue an asset, the enormous performing arts center known as El Conjunto Santander de Arte Escénicas on the north campus of the University of Guadalajara. (This weekend, the largest hall is hosting a “Live From the Met” presentation of Verdi’s Nabucco.)

Today’s news from IPA’s headquarters in Geneva is that a keynote presentation has been confirmed to feature Melissa Fleming, the United Nations’ under-secretary-general for global communications—this being tied, of course, to a prominent focal point of the congress being the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);  the IPA/UN-led SDG Publishers Compact, now with more than 300 signatories; and the IPA “SDG Dashboard,” a place to watch for updates on international publishing’s activities in relation to sustainability.

Gvantsa Jobava

Commenting on the news of Fleming’s upcoming participation, IPA vice-president Gvantsa Jobava, who heads the programming committee, says, “Our congress will have a stream dedicated to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the SDGs, so we’re delighted to have Ms. Fleming joining us to share her valuable insights into how publishing can support society in achieving the dramatic changes necessary for a sustainable future.”

As part of its media messaging today, the IPA is confirming that delegates to the congress in December will have access to Guadalajara International Book Fair directed by Marisol Schulz Manaut free of charge.

Hugo Setzer

Hugo Setzer, the former IPA president and now chief of Mexico’s CANIEM, points to the support coming from Schulz’s fair administration, saying, “Guadalajara Book Fair is so special, we wanted our delegates to be able to experience it for themselves during their stay in Mexico.

“Our thanks to the fair for supporting our Congress and making that possible with entry to the book fair included with the Congress badge.”

Earlier, it was announced that the Mexican historian and author Enrique Krauze is another keynote speaker confirmed for the program in December.

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The theme of the congress is Turning Pages: Publishing and the Future Society, reflecting a goal of enabling concrete outcomes for the benefit of the global publishing community.

The congress is being produced by the Cámara Nacional de la Industria Editorial Mexicana (CANIEM) and the Association of American Publishers, led by president and CEO Maria A. Pallante. the congress has opened early-bird pricing (for one and two people), with those rates available until March 31. On the registration pages of the site, you’ll find that hotel rates have been negotiated, as well.

It’s also anticipated that the Guadalajara Congress will name the 2024 laureate of the Prix Voltaire, the IPA’s recognition of “exemplary courage in upholding the freedom to publish and enabling others to exercise their freedom of expression.” As our readers know, submissions for this year’s honor are open until March 22. The unique Prix Voltaire program is overseen by IPA’s Freedom to Publish committee, chaired by Kristenn Einarsson. James Taylor directs the Prix Voltaire program.

Serious Challenges

Like many industries, world publishing is conscious of the need to promulgate its own efforts to reduce its overall carbon footprint, particularly as a user of paper in print formats.

Less well observed is a potential that’s unique to publishing and its sister creative industries: the generation of a narrative hub for the realities threatening Earth—the committed production of deeply informed and compelling fiction and nonfiction.

News is moving today (February 7) from the European Commission’s Copernicus Climate Change Service that the Earth has just concluded the warmest January on record worldwide, with an average ERA5 surface temperature of 13.14 Celsius (55.652 Fahrenheit), and that large parts of Europe were wetter than average under the impact of storms in north and southwestern Europe. And this means that, as Julia Jacobo, Daniel Peck, and Ginger Zee are reporting at ABC News, February 2023 through January 2024 was the hottest 12-month stretch on record, global warming measuring 1.52 degrees Celsius, while the Paris Agreement has set a gola of keeping warming below 1.5C degrees.

On Friday (February 2), one of Fleming’s colleagues, Simon Stiell, executive director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change spoke at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy in Baku, saying that the international community needs to mobilize at least US$2.4 trillion “to keep climate change goals within reach,” as reported by Valerie Volcovici for Reuters. Climate finance is anticipated, Volcovici writes, to be the focus of this year’s COP29, which will be  hosted by Baku, governments being “tasked with setting a new target post-2025 for raising money to support developing country efforts to cut emissions and adapt to the worsening impacts of climate change.”

Tuesday’s (February 6) report from MIT News revisited the fact “The technical report … published in September 2023, found that while the world has taken actions that have reduced forecasts of future warming, they are not sufficient to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.”

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That article quotes MIT’s Levanthan Center for Advanced Urbanism’s Allesandra Fabbri saying, “Despite minor, punctual advancements in climate action, parties are far from being on track to meet the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. There is a noted lack of accountability among certain countries in adhering to their commitments and responsibilities under international climate agreements.”

And in terms of some of the more profound constructs of the sustainability debate, Fleming is no stranger to such gathering hurdles as human displacement.

She is the author of A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival  (Macmillan / Flatiron Books, 2017). Her 2014 TED Talk, Let’s Help Refugees Thrive, Not Just Survive, has registered some 1.5 million views. She’s also known to some as the host of the podcast Awake at Night, a UN production with eight seasons of episodes.

Fleming has led the UN’s global communications department since September 2019, overseeing strategic communications operations, including the UN’s multilingual news and digital media services, public outreach programs, and international campaigns. One aspect of the program’s effort is addressing disinformation, misinformation, and hate speech, and she is a lead on the development of a code of conduct for information integrity on digital platforms.

Previously, Fleming was head of global communications for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), following her work as spokesperson and head of media and outreach at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). She has also been head of press and public information team at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

For information on the coming International Publishers Congress, ticketing, and accommodations, see the program’s dedicated site here.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the International Publishers Association is here, more on the IPA’s biennial International Publishers Congress series is here, more on the Guadalajara International Book Fair is here, more on the Mexican market is here, more on the Mexican publishers’ book chamber CANIEM is here, and more on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and related programs and initiatives in book publishing is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the International Publishers Association’s world media partner.

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.