The IFLA Governing Board met in June 2023 during which it had a robust and thoughtful discussion and considered a range of inputs from stakeholders before taking the decision to hold the 2024 World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. 

IFLA’s values and core principles are important, and IFLA seeks to demonstrate these values across our work and with our partners, members, and volunteers. In selecting Dubai for WLIC 2024, the Governing Board actively sought relevant information, and considered the potential impact on some groups, and the LGBTQIA+ community in particular. The Governing Board was equally aware that every time we hold a congress, regardless of our host, there are some countries or communities that are excluded.

At IFLA we say we are the ‘Global Voice of Libraries’ yet in recent years, we have rarely taken the Congress outside of Europe and North America. IFLA is a global organisation, but we have simply not been as geographically inclusive as we should be. Our new regional structures have been a tremendous step forward, and so when we received a strong bid from Dubai, the Governing Board agreed that selecting Dubai was the right decision and is in line with our renewed global commitment. It would also show we are listening to those whose voices are often quieter and who feel IFLA is Eurocentric.

Our colleagues in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region are excited about IFLA bringing the World Library and Information Congress to their region for the first time. They see it as an opportunity for the empowerment of libraries and our profession – particularly for women – and also believe it can be a catalyst for change and provide participants with the tools they need to mobilise their governments into action to strengthen libraries and support the communities they serve. Without the conference, this opportunity is missed.

Dubai’s bid was strong, highlighting issues that we hope that the library field as a whole can share. The National Committee sees the World Library and Information Congress as an opportunity to ‘stimulate a passion for learning and inspire our younger generation to learn, grow and help shape the future’, and to develop libraries in the region. The bid underlined their commitment to human rights – including women’s empowerment – and we will hold them to this commitment as we design the programme.

In choosing a location for WLIC, IFLA neither endorses nor sanctions host government policies – in any country. Our purpose is to connect library and information professionals, to expose participants to new international ideas and opportunities, to inspire and encourage positive change in the library profession. Change happens through dialogue and certainly cannot happen if we are not present. We cannot influence if we are not prepared to listen and understand, and it takes courage to respectfully disagree and acknowledge other perspectives.

Dubai is considered a safe city. Whilst it is recognised that members of the LGBTQIA+ community may not feel safe about participating in WLIC 2024, even when following official travel advice, there will be other communities who feel safe about participating in a WLIC for the first time. We will do everything we can to ensure that the design of the programme is as inclusive as possible.

So WLIC 2024 in Dubai will be a different congress. It will be an exciting opportunity for participants to learn about the cultural heritage and transformation plans for libraries in the region.

Barbara Lison, IFLA President
Vicki McDonald, IFLA President-elect