Promotion of Arabic at the core of new UAE strategy on literature and publishing

Minister of Culture and Youth Noura Al Kaabi says plans include documentation of Emirati literary initiatives and programmes

Noura Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth, gives a keynote address at the Arabic Language Summit in Abu Dhabi. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
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A new strategy to overhaul the UAE’s literature and publishing industry has been announced by the Ministry of Culture and Youth.

To be launched next year, a new suite of policies and initiatives will be designed to govern and enhance both industries, with a focus on copyright protection and intellectual property.

The move was announced by Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth, on the opening day of the Arabic Language Summit.

Organised by the ministry and Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, the two-day event, held at Manarat Saadiyat, brings together regional authors and thought leaders for discussions surrounding the current state and advancement of the Arabic language.

“The Ministry of Culture and Youth will launch a strategy to stimulate and govern the literature and publishing sector, develop current laws and legislation related to the protection of copyright, publishing and intellectual property and analyse the sector's current and future needs,” Al Kaabi said in her keynote address.

“We will document Emirati literary initiatives and programmes and measure its presence in educational curricula. We will build a digital database documenting these achievements and prepare implementation reports that include the most important strengths, challenges and opportunities for improvement.”

Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth, says the UAE creative and cultural industries are primed for growth. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

Speaking to The National on the sidelines of the conference, Al Kaabi said the aim of the new strategy is to “incentivise” all the players in literary and cultural scenes to ultimately enhance the status of the Arabic language.

"We are looking at ways on how to support the language and how we can make it thrive through music, theatre, publications, poetry, calligraphy and many other forms," she said.

Turbocharging the publishing sector's embrace of digital platforms such as ebooks also forms part of the ministry's plans, in addition to strengthening safeguards against the scourge of piracy.

"We are approaching this from a view of this being one big ecosystem," Al Kaabi said.

"We want publishers and distributors to understand the importance of copyright and to develop the importance of copyright as well as well developing the right algorithms to understand what books are being read and how to work smarter when it comes to the market.”

Zayed University has established the Zai Centre, dedicated to teaching Arabic. Photo: Zayed University

Al Kaabi said the recently launched Zai Centre in Abu Dhabi's Zayed University, a teaching hub exploring how Arabic is taught across the globe, will provide some of the insights formulating part of the ministry’s strategy.

"The research aspect is important and I have to highlight the work of the Zai Centre," she said.

"The centre will look at the research conducted and provide ways on how to build collaborations between the private and government sector and how we can take them to the next level."

The Arabic Language Summit caps off another strong year for the UAE cultural sector, which includes the staging of the Culture Summit Abu Dhabi in October and the June launch of a landmark joint study by the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi and Unesco on the pandemic's impact on the cultural and creative industries.

The Culture Summit Abu Dhabi was full of thought-provoking discussions and heritage performances. Victor Besa / The National

“I think the pandemic gave us the opportunity, for all of us in the sector, of going through a great reset and we are now really looking into our core priorities,” Al Kaabi said.

"We are really assessing what matters the most and we are focusing on the most impactful way to represent the culture of the UAE not just within the country but abroad as well. I have always looked at this as an opportunity than a challenge."

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Updated: December 20, 2022, 2:11 PM