IFLA participated actively in last week’s European Regional Forum on Sustainable Development, drawing on the rich experience of Polish libraries in particular in both supporting the response to crises, and in promoting inclusive development.

Magdalena Gomulka at the European Regional Forum on Sustainable Development 2023
Magdalena Gomulka at the European Regional Forum on Sustainable Development 2023

The European leg of the five regional sustainable development fora organised in advance of the 2023 High Level Political Forum took place in Geneva on 28-30 March. Like the other events this year, it focused both on ensuring crisis recovery, and accelerating progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Magdalena Gomulka, Training Coordinator at Silesian Libraries, Poland, and the Convenor of IFLA’s New Professionals Special Interest Group, attended on IFLA’s behalf, bringing both local and global experience to the table. Jeannette Frey, European Regional Division Committee member, also engaged in sessions focused on research and connectivity.

Fora such as these are an opportunity to hear from the UN and national governments about priorities and issues for them linked to SDG implementation, and to raise awareness of libraries and what they can contribute. It was, in particular, a chance to strengthen direct links with decision-makers.

With SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) in focus this year, there was extensive discussion about the factors of success for sustainable urbanisation. Both plenary sessions and side-events allowed national and international leaders to share experiences, and offered an opportunity for IFLA to share just some examples of the place of libraries in such policies.

The situation in Ukraine, and the ways in which countries receiving displaced people have responded were also high on the agenda. Magda was able to share practical examples of the work undertaken by libraries, both in engagement with delegates, as well as at the side-event organised by IFLA on 28 March (see more here).

A further recurring theme was the importance of evidence for development. There remain important gaps in data and knowledge both as concerns how much progress we have made towards achieving the SDGs, and how we can do better. Libraries – in particular those in governments and parliaments, working with colleagues in the academic and research sector – can play a particularly useful role here.

Key results from the Forum are, in addition to the new connections made with national delegates, valuable inputs for IFLA’s work towards the High-Level Political Forum. With IFLA also holding side-events in every other regional forum, we will have strong global messages to bring to New York in July.