Patricia Aldana--Opening

Address by Patricia Aldana at the Opening of the 32nd IBBY Congress


Mr Xosé Antonio Sánchez Bugallo, Mayor of Santiago, Mr Roberto Varela Fariña, Minister of Culture and Tourism, Mr Albert Núñez Feijoo, President of the Xunta, and our beloved friend María Jesús Gil president of OEPLI and Congress President, thank you for your support and hard work and warm welcome.

Dear IBBY friends and special guests,

We owe a huge thank you to María Jesús Gil, to our Congress Comisaria Henrike Fesefeldt, to Ana Cendan at OEPLI in Madrid, to the Congress Executive Committee and colleagues at GALIX; you have done an extraordinary job of making it possible for us to meet together at an IBBY Congress in this fabled city.

I welcome you all to what will certainly be a wonderful, interesting and productive Congress in this beautiful city of Santiago de Compostela. In this special year we have travelled to this pilgrimage site as a different kind of pilgrim to those whom you usually welcome – we are pilgrims whose passion is the urgent need for children the world over to have access to the very best of books of their own and from others around the world and to be given every opportunity to become life-long readers.

Today is UNESCO International Literacy Day.  I would like to share with you a short quote from the message issued by Irina Bokova the Director-General of UNESCO: the first woman to be elected to this post!

"When a woman is literate, she can make choices to dramatically change her life for the better.

There is no justification – be it cultural, economic or social – for denying girls and women an education. It is a basic right and an absolute condition for reaching all the internationally agreed development goals.

Acquiring literacy skills gives women a sense of self-confidence and control over their life and future. This is what empowerment is about: gaining the knowledge to make informed decisions, sharing power in the household and in wider political life. Testimonies from newly literate women bear witness to the far-reaching transformation that new knowledge and skills have on all aspects of their lives."

If you read children instead of women, this statement is so close to our own mission in IBBY.

IBBY’s work is growing and expanding. But so are the needs of children.  In the past year alone we have seen many hundreds of thousands of children suffer terribly from natural disasters.  Furthermore, we know that so many children’s lives are unacceptably undermined every day and their potential as human beings damaged, perhaps irreparably, by the adult world’s insistence on war as a means to an end, by the ongoing degradation of their natural environment, by prejudice and hatred, and by the utterly unacceptable and ever growing gap between the very rich and the poor.  We must keep trying to improve our work on behalf of the most vulnerable people in the world – these children – and to remember that reading and books can transform a child’s possibilities and even save lives. 

As IBBY President I am very proud of the work that you are all doing in your countries. This week we are here to enjoy that incredible experience of seeing our friends and making new ones from around the world.  We will have a splendid time, I am sure.

I wish you a great and enriching experience at this – our 32nd World Congress.


Santiago de Compostela, 8 September 2010