A strong team of IFLA representatives attended the 9th African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development, held in Niamey, Niger. Through their presence, they were able to build links and advocate effectively for libraries both with regional and national leaders.  

Through its participation in intergovernmental events, IFLA looks to make the most of the unique opportunity to speak directly to decision-makers about why libraries matter.

While in the national context, it can be hard to reach those in power, or to escape from a purely sectoral focus, meetings such as the African Regional Forum for Sustainable Development can allow our voices to reach further, as well as to build strong links with the local library community.

This is exactly what the IFLA team – made up of Sarah Kaddu (Uganda) and Damilare Oyedele (Nigeria), from IFLA’s Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Division Committee, joined by Victoria Okojie (Nigeria) and Antonin Benoît Diouf (Senegal) – were able to achieve.

Group photo of the participants at the workshop for librarians in Niger
Group photo of the participants at the workshop for librarians in Niger

Advocating at the continental level

Already ahead of the opening ceremony of the Forum, IFLA organised a side event, looking at the role of libraries and information in responding to crises, already covered in a separate news story.

The IFLA team continued this work to build awareness of how central libraries are for development throughout the rest of the Forum, both from the floor in open sessions and through conversations with delegates in the margins.

A particular focus was delegates from countries which are undertaking Voluntary National Reviews this year, making sure that the coordinators knew the importance of engaging libraries in their preparation. We are looking forward to seeing the results at this year’s High Level Political Forum.

Promoting IFLA engagement and advocacy

The visit was an opportunity to hold a day-long workshop with Nigerien librarians, in order to share information and lessons from IFLA’s wider work. Sessions focused on the operation of IFLA as a whole, as well as the potential of the SDGs as a focus and structuring principle for library work, and the importance of advocacy.

Participants in the workshop for Nigerien librarians

Participants in the workshop for Nigerien librarians, discussing how libraries contribute to delivering on the SDGs. In addition to the workshop, the IFLA representatives visited the Nigerien Association of Information and Documentation Specialists (ASNID), which is based in the same offices as the organisation responsible for training and development of students and professionals, working with the Ministry for Planning.

The team also met with the National Library of Niger, stressing the value of strong and active national libraries, and welcoming their readiness to rejoin IFLA. The Secretary General of the National Library also stressed how much of a priority engaging newer professionals is.

The IFLA delegation with the Minister of Communication of Niger

Engaging with national authorities

Thanks to the local hosts, it was possible to hold a meeting with the Minister of Communications, Mr Mahamadou Lawaii Dan Dano. The IFLA team highlighted the importance of securing better recognition for the work of information professionals, as well as the role they can play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

In turn, the minister talked about current reforms to library and information sciences education, with a view to ensuring that students gained up-to-date skills, and underlined his own personal commitment to achieving this, something that was echoed by the President.

The IFLA delegation was able to offer its ongoing support to the government in updating the curriculum, through making connections with experts across Africa.

A second meeting took the IFLA team to meet the Minister of Culture, Mr Mohamed Hamid, who encouraged libraries in Niger to work together in order to raise the profile and impact of their work. IFLA representatives underlined the benefits of membership and the need for more support to libraries in general, with the minister noting that he would look to make funds available to create more libraries.

The IFLA delegation with the Minister of Culture of Niger

We are particularly grateful to Mr Tahirou Amadou (Communication and Scientific Culture Lead at the Institute for Research and Development, and Mr Nabil Seydou Harouna (Vice-Director of the Central University Library of the Abdou Moumouni University) and their teas for all their help in organising these activities.