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UNESCO's City of Literature programme is part of a wider Creative Cities Network which was launched in 2004 and is currently made up of 295 UNESCO Creative Cities globally. Members are drawn from more than 72 countries and cover seven creative fields: Crafts & Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Music, and Media Arts. The Network was born out of UNESCO's Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity initiative which was created in 2002.


The Creative Cities Network’s aim is to "promote the social, economic and cultural development of cities in both the developed and the developing world." The cities in the network promote their local creative scene and conform to UNESCO’s goal of fostering cultural diversity. They recognise past, present and future: a strong cultural heritage, a vibrant and diverse contemporary cultural scene, and aspirations to extend culture to the next generation at home and to other cities in a global partnership. 

The UNESCO Cities of Literature network of 42 cities represents 6 continents and 28 countries, and a combined population of over 26 million.

To be approved as a City of Literature, cities need to meet a number of criteria set by UNESCO. Designated UNESCO Cities of Literature share similar characteristics:


  • Quality, quantity and diversity of publishing in the city

  • Quality and quantity of educational programmes focusing on domestic or foreign literature at primary, secondary and tertiary levels

  • Literature, drama and/or poetry playing an important role in the city

  • Hosting literary events and festivals which promote domestic and foreign literature;

  • Existence of libraries, bookstores and public or private cultural centres which preserve, promote and disseminate domestic and foreign literature

  • Involvement by the publishing sector in translating literary works from diverse national languages and foreign literature

  • Active involvement of traditional and new media in promoting literature and strengthening the market for literary products.


Cities submit bids to UNESCO to be designated a City of Literature. The designations are monitored and reviewed every four years by the organization.

As Cities of Literature, we have committed to the following values that guide our work, relationships and activities:

  • We will build a welcoming and cooperative network that reflects the diversity and richness of the world’s languages and literatures;

  • We will promote the value of dialogue and freedom of speech and expression in all our activities;

  • We will pursue through the network international opportunities that benefit our local and national literary sectors;

  • We will work to strengthen the relationships between all creative cities around the globe;

  • We will be active and proactive in our communications with each other and our partners.

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