IFLA participants standing in front of a roll-up banner with Civil Society Conference. Woman on the left with mid-length hair, and a yellow hoodie with Libraries Change Lives in green letters. Woman on the right facing us, with short hair and glasses, and a hoodie with the IFLA logo
Purity Kavuri (L) and Nerisa Kamar (R)

On 8-10 May 2024, Nerisa Kamar and Purity Kavuri represented IFLA and the global library field at the United Nations Civil Society Conference, as well as a UNESCO pre-meeting for NGOs, all held in Nairobi, Kenya. Nerisa and Purity here share what they learned.

The UN Civil Society Conference 2024 took place in the context of work to prepare for the Summit of the Future, one of the most significant UN events of the decade, where the Pact for the Future will be agreed. This will set out an agenda for the whole multilateral system, looking to ensure that it fulfils its potential well into the future.

IFLA’s representatives, Nerisa Kamar (Project Coordinator, Information Africa Organisation, and member of the IFLA Regional Division Committee for Sub-Saharan Africa) and Purity Kavuri (Assistant Director, Kenya National Library Service, and former member of the IFLA Regional Division Committee for Sub-Saharan Africa) participated, with a view both to underlining the importance of libraries as stakeholders, and making sure that the importance of information, knowledge and culture are recognised.

Nerisa and Purity have provided the below report. IFLA is deeply grateful to them for their participation.

Woman with a white t-shirt, blue lanyard, mid-length curly black hair and glasses, sitting at a desk with a microphone and other people around her
Purity at a Civil Society Conference Session

The main conference held at UN Gigiri had several thematic sessions, with highlights being the Pact for the Future, the Declaration on Future Generations, the Global Digital Compact (with a specific focus on youth and governance), and the SDGs.  To strengthen our knowledge base, build collaborative networks and thematically map libraries to current trends in related fields, we attended sessions on people-centered smart cities, the Role of CSO Stakeholders in 20 Years of the WSIS Process and Multistakeholder Internet Governance. We also took part in the plenary session “Interactive Dialogue: Looking ahead to the Summit and beyond”.

In addition, we attended the half day pre-conference meeting organized by UNESCO. This was a Strategic Dialogue on “Uniting for Impact: A Dialogue Between UNESCO and Partner NGOs”.

Four people (left to right) an African woman with a black striped shirt, mid-length hair and glasses. A white woman with shortish hair, and a big check jacket over a white shirt. An African woman with a yellow shirt, short hair and glasses, and a man with a beard, suit and tie
Purity and Nerisa with UNESCO colleagues

The purpose was to enhance collaborative engagements with both NGOs in official partnership with UNESCO and other NGOs collaborating with UNESCO at the country and local levels.

Throughout this, we took a proactive approach to advancing IFLA’s messages. We talked about IFLA and libraries to participants for the UNESCO NGOs pre-meeting and the Civil Society Conference; b) distributed 100 IFLA flyers titled “3 steps towards a successful Summit of the Future”; and c) wore IFLA branded hoodies with IFLA logo and IFLA slogan “Libraries Change Lives”.

Key takeaways included the need for thematic mapping for cultural preservation by all partners and key stakeholders. This is in line with IFLA’s advocacy on the rights to knowledge, access to meaningful information and cultural integration for the future. This is achievable through strong and collaborative library infrastructure.

African woman with a yellow hoodie, blue jeans, mid-length black hair and glasses, writing 'Libraries Change Lives' on a whiteboard
Purity Kavuri underlines that libraries change lives

Crucially, we saw strong agreement with our argument (and the slogan on our hoodies) that libraries change lives and are key in achievements of all the SDGs.

We are grateful to IFLA and its team, to Nick Newland, Chairperson of the NGO-UNESCO Liaison Committee and Sabina Colombo, Chief of Civil Society Partnerships UNESCO, and to colleagues on the IFLA Regional Division Committee for Sub-Saharan Africa.