As a statistician I enjoy counting – and see participation lists as raw material for som basic demographic analysis. Preliminary results – based on rapid counting of the lists posted at the conference center – show some interesting patterns.
Fifteen hundred Africans
The host country always has a large delegation. But the South African turnout was absolutely exceptional: about thirty percent of the participants came from South Africa (550 delegates). By comparison, in Berlin (IFLA 2003) the host percentage was (as I remember) less than fifteen percent (will check on that later …).
The percentage distribution among the visitors can be described as follows: • Europe – 47% • North America – 21% • Asia – 13% • Africa – 11% • Oceania – 3.6% • Latin America – 3.3% • Middle East – 2.6%
The old distinctions between North and South, developed and developing countries, are fading. But we may still note that about 70% of the foreign participants came from Europe, North America and Oceania – and about 30% from the other parts of the world. The latter include, of course, several advanced economies like Japan and the Republic of Korea.
Economy is a big barrier. A solid support programme for less industrialized countries will clearly be necessary for a long time.
Thus time, the total number of Africans – with accompanying persons – was close to fifteen hundred.
The Nordic group of countries was, as usual, strongly represented – with nearly two hundred delegates. The five countries – Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway – have about twenty million inhabitants in total. This works out to about ten delegates per million.
If the world as a whole had been represented at the Nordic level, Durban would have been flooded by sixty thousand delegates. Tiny Iceland sent ten delegates. At the Icelandic level of participation, a quarter of a million delegates would have streamed into City Hall for the Cultural Gala on Wednesday – including sixty thousand just from China. And 250 thousand is actually the size of the whole Icelandic population …
The role of language is obviously important. In Africa, eighty percent of the delegates come from countries where English is well established. This includes Nigeria, which has the largest population and delegation (40) persons. But the world – and IFLA – are both becoming more multilingual, so this may well change in the future.