Reading is a human right, but currently not all people can access books or other reading materials. Over 90% of all published materials cannot be read by blind or print-disabled people, leading to a "book famine." We need to be able to reproduce published materials into accessible formats, such as Braille, large print, and audio editions, to address the book famine, however, current copyright rules within most countries prevents this. Working with WIPO, the WBU led the international campaign to develop the Marrakesh Treaty that would address this book famine (official treaty name: the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities). The Marrakesh treaty was signed in Morocco on 28 June 2013. To date, it has been ratified by these countries: India, El Salvador, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Mali, Paraguay, Singapore, Argentina, Mexico, Mongolia, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Brazil, Peru, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Israel, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Canada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, Botswana, Sri Lanka, and Liberia. It has been signed by over 60 countries as well (refer to map below).
More than 90% of all published material is not accessible to the blind or partially sighted. We need to be able to produce these materials in accessible formats, such as Braille, large print or audio editions, but the current copyright rules do not allow this.
This limits the number of books to which blind students can have access to further their studies and training WBU has led the international campaign in partnership with WIPO to achieve the development of the Marrakesh Treaty and put an end to the current thirst for books. This treaty is also available to read or download from our Resources section or from the WIPO website:
The Marrakesh Treaty has been ratified by 25 countries, and it entered into force on September 30th, 2016, exactly three months after it reached 20th ratifying countries, which triggered its entry into force. Ratifying countries and their citizens can now benefit from the increase in accessible materials through cross-border sharing and the increased production of books under the Treaty’s provisions. However, we want every blind and print disabled person in every country to benefit from this Treaty, thus, our focus is now on ensuring that every country in the world ratifies the Treaty and implements it effectively in order for the book famine to finally end.
We are also a part of the Accessible Books Consortium. Follow this link to their website to learn more about how they will help countries and organizations implement the Marrakesh Treaty, once it comes into force: www.accessiblebooksconsortium.org
Useful links and resources on the Marrakesh Treaty:
WBU Asia-Pacific and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Bangkok Regional Hub have produced a report titled
`Our Right to Knowledge: Legal Reviews for the Ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty for persons with print disabilities in Asia and
You can download it here: UNDP and WBU-AP report on Marrakesh Treaty
A video (in Italian) produced by our Italian member, the Italian Union of the Blind and Partially Sighted, explains the Marrakesh Treaty process and why the treaty is so important for blind people. The video was made possible thanks to a grant from the Open Society Institute Foundation. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lpUe-Z0lXA
Listed below are the interventions from the Social Forum and the WIPO Marrakesh Assembly, 2016:
The Social Forum is a three-day event, convened annually by the UN
Human Rights Council in Geneva.
This meeting provides a unique space for
interactive dialogue between civil society actors, representatives of UN Member
States, and intergovernmental organizations. This year, the Social Forum was
focused on the theme of the 10th anniversary
of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
(CRPD), during which, WBU representatives were in attendance and raised
importance of ratifying and implementing the Marrakesh Treaty. To read more about the Social Forum in full, click here.
The 1st Marrakesh
Assembly was held this year, on October 5th, during the 56th Session of the WIPO General Assembly -
and included 22 countries that have ratified the Treaty, as it
entered into force on 30 September, 2016. WBU representatives attended
the Assembly and made interventions (listed above).
Additionally, during this meeting, three more countries joined: Botswana, Sri
Lanka and Liberia.
For Marrakesh Assembly highlights, click here.
How you can help?
The countries that have signed on to the treaty are listed on the WIPO page:
If your country has not signed or ratified the treaty, ask your government representatives why they are not supporting your Right to Read. We have created a letter that others can use to encourage their government to ratify the treaty: WBU LETTER TO ALL GOVERNMENTS
You can also speak to your government representative, member of parliament, or congress about the book famine and how it affects your ability to enjoy literary works. When one is denied the ability to read, one is cut off from their own culture. Let us know of the work you are doing in your country in your efforts to advance accessibility and gain greater access to books and literature in braille, large print or audio. Follow our progress on Twitter: @blindunion #MarrakeshTreaty
The Right to Read Campaign Chair is WBU's Immediate Past President, Maryanne Diamond. She can be contacted via email - Maryanne.firstname.lastname@example.org
. Listed below are the names and contact information for each regional coordinator:
Please feel to contact anyone from the Right to Read team if you need help reaching out to your government in order to begin the process working towards ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty in your own country.
The Marrakesh Treaty Ratification and Implementation Campaign is supported (in part) by a grant from the Open Society Foundations.