18 Juni 2019
Supporting Sustainable Development Globally: Libraries at the UN Regional Forums
In preparation for global meetings on the SDGs in July and September, IFLA has been active at the regional level. The message: that at all levels, and across the 2030 Agenda, libraries and access to information are indispensable for progress.
The process that leads to the High level Political Forum in July in New York each year passes through a series of meetings organised by each of the United Nations’ regional commissions.
These are opportunities to focus on progress – and challenges – at a continental level, and share the ideas that can help countries accelerate towards delivering the SDGs.
Libraries in all regions have much to contribute to success. IFLA has been happy to support them in showing this.
For the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development, over 1100 met in Marrakesh, Morroco on 16-18 April. They focused on the theme of empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.
With just 11 years remaining to the 2030 Agenda, Africa is still far behind in the implementation of the SDGs – a major concern for participants at the Forum.
Damilare Oyedele, Co-founder & Chief Executive: Library and You represented International Federation of Library Association and Institutions (IFLA), underlining that libraries were ready to do their part.
Through a presentation at the side event organised by the NGO Major Group Africa, he explained to participants that access to information was a prerequisite for achieving the SDGs and Agenda 2063.
At other side events, he was able to reinforce the point that there is no access to information without functional and efficient libraries. This allowed for further discussion on how to realise the promise of libraries as drivers of development and motors of change. Ongoing work to explore and set out the impact of libraries would help reinforce the case.
Countries from the United Nations Western Asia region came together in Beirut on 9-11 April 2019. With a focus on some of the key SDG themes for this year – education, equality and political engagement – it was a strong opportunity to highlight what libraries can contribute.
The importance of information for governments was key. When decisions are taken that affect millions of people, there is a pressing need for them to be based on the best evidence, and properly implemented. But this is often lacking in a region that remains off-track on several essential goals.
Dr Fawz Abdullah and Randa Chidiac represented IFLA, participating in sessions on the engagement of adolescents and youth, rethinking inequality, and the need to find ways to support groups at greatest risk of exclusion. They intervened in each session, underlining the need to engage and empower people through information.
They also noted the work that libraries in Lebanon are already doing to promote inclusion, how IFLA helped in this, and encouraged all participants to go home and contact their library associations in order to realise this promise.
Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean
Libraries also took part in the meetings in Geneva and Santiago de Chile, once again setting out the importance of access to information for development.
In Geneva, representatives used the opportunity to engage with national delegates in order to ensure the inclusion of libraries in national development strategies.
In Santiago, the library at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) held a workshop on the role of big data in development.
With the power – and potential risks – of this technology becoming clearer, the importance of the action, skills and values of libraries becomes more important. The contribution both of the ECLAC library, and local Chilean libraries, made for a successful event with some powerful messages.
Building on this contribution, IFLA looks forward to the High-Level Political Forum next month, and new opportunities to show how libraries are indispensable partners for development.