IFLA addressed mayors and other local leaders at the United Cities and Local Government retreat, highlighting in particular the power of culture to deliver development, and the need to mobilise recognition of this at the global level.

Following the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding with United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) late last year, we were very happy to be invited to participate at their annual Retreat in Barcelona, Spain.

UCLG is the global organisation for local and regional governments, bringing together mayors and other leaders in order to explore and reinforce the potential of local authorities in making for a better world.

Local governments are essential stakeholders for public and community libraries around the world. Because of this, IFLA aims, through strong and positive relationships with their international body, to encourage effective support for and mobilisation of libraries in local development strategies globally.

A particularly strong area of engagement is around the Culture2030Goal campaign, where we are very happy to work alongside UCLG’s Culture Committee to make the case for culture to be recognised as an indispensable area of action in achieving the sustainable development.

IFLA spoke about the campaign’s work in a session looking at how to build more peaceful and cohesive societies. We underlined that culture should be seen not just as a sector, but also as a vector of change.

We also stressed that incorporating culture also means that policy planning and delivery takes better account of cultural factors that determine how people react to policy – in the end, policies are only as effective as the changes in behaviour that they trigger.

Crucially, while culture needs to be incorporated into work across the SDGs and any development agendas, having a dedicated goal is necessary in order to oblige people to think about it in the first place.

Through their successful engagement at the United Nations and elsewhere, local government representatives can be key advocates for culture globally.

Our participation was also a great opportunity to talk with mayors from different countries, and support work to place libraries at the heart of key initiatives, from promoting reading among children to upholding free expression.