IFLA Secretary General Gerald Leitner today wrote to IFLA members to mark the start of the 70th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:


Dear all,
Today marks the beginning of the 70th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A response to the Second World War, a low point in human history, it sets a course for all governments, all institutions, and all peoples. As we approach 70 years since its signing, we have not yet reached the destination it sets out. We have to work for it!

Libraries can not only draw strength from the Declaration, but through their work, contribute to achieving its goals.
Without the right to privacy, to free thought and association, libraries are unable to do their jobs. Perhaps most significantly, Article 19 of the Declaration, which highlights the freedom ‘to seek receive and impart information and ideas though any media and regardless of frontiers’ – is at the heart of IFLA’s core values. It is also on the wall in our offices in The Hague.
Libraries in turn play a key role in making a reality of the right to education, to participation in cultural, artistic and scientific life, and to engagement in public life. On an even more basic level, by guaranteeing meaningful access to information to all, without discrimination, they support equality, health, employment and education.
This is not to say that applying and promoting rights is easy. So many of our members work in situations where their own rights, as well as the rights of their communities, are not guaranteed. IFLA will continue to support our colleagues around the world through our words, our friendship, and as far as possible our presence.
Moreover, rights may not sit easily together. Privacy and access to information can come into conflict, as in the case of the right to be forgotten. The balance between the rights of the individual and those of others in the community. We need a means of discussing, openly and profoundly, how to find the best possible situation for all.
IFLA is lucky to have its Advisory Committee on Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression. This is celebrating its own anniversary – 20 years of providing inspiration and guidance to the library field. I look forward to working over the coming year to build understanding of how human rights play out in libraries, and what we in turn can do to speed their implementation.
As the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has underlined, “we must organize and mobilize in defence of human decency, in defence of a better common future… We must take a robust and determined stand: by resolutely supporting the human rights of others, we also stand up for our own rights and those of generations to come”.
Kind regards,

Gerald Leitner

IFLA Secretary General