IFLA joined UN agencies, experts and civil society organisations from around the world in providing input for the preparation of the first draft of the Global Digital Compact at a virtual consultation,

The Compact is a key pillar of wider efforts – linked to the Summit of the Future – to enhance how the intergovernmental system delivers on its missions and responds to the challenges facing the world today. IFLA has engaged in this work over the past two years, and so was now happy to join others as we move towards a concrete text.

We used this opportunity to stress points we have made throughout the process. Key issues include the importance of focusing on real-world outcomes, on emancipating and empowering through information, of supporting lifelong learning and providing ways to engage in internet governance discussions, on ensuring international copyright rules that favour access to and use of content, and on supporting libraries as a key infrastructure for turning internet access into positive change for all.

The full text of IFLA’s intervention is below:

Your excellencies,

I speak on behalf of the world’s 3 million libraries, representing a truly global network of institutions focused on helping people use information to enjoy rights and fulfil potential.

On question 1 concerning how to reflect a shared vision of digital cooperation, we agree that universal meaningful connectivity must be the end goal. Meaningful, for us, means that success is measured in terms of sustainable development outcomes – not least education, innovation, inclusion.

On question 2 around principles of cooperation, we believe that an essential principle is that the work carried out at the global level should serve to emancipate and empower at the level of individuals and communities. We welcome the Policy Brief’s focus on digital skills as an essential step towards effective digital citizenship, but worry about its implication that this is only relevant for people in formal education. We also need meaningful and non-duplicating structures for multi-stakeholder participation in internet governance, and note in particular the potential of the dynamic coalitions constituted as part of the IGF.

On question 3 on the issues to be considered in a forward-looking pact, we highlight the importance of access to relevant content and knowledge, given how decisive this is in whether the internet makes a difference. We echo the points made by Norway yesterday, underlining the need to protect and promote a rich and diverse digital knowledge commons. We need also to address the internet fragmentation created by a failure to support cross border research, education and access to culture in international copyright law.

We also appreciate work on information integrity, but believe that alongside addressing identified problems, we also need a holistic, constructive, positive approach to building a healthy and inclusive information environment. Linked to the above, and in response to question 4 on commitments, actions and deliverables, we therefore believe that the Compact should underline that the creation of, access to, and use of relevant content and knowledge by all should be considered part of the ongoing digital cooperation agenda.

Finally, concerning question 5 on follow-up to the Compact, we hope to see the focus in the Policy Brief on digital empowerment of public institutions reaffirmed, and it clarified that key last-mile community infrastructures focused on delivering the potential of the internet or all, such as libraries, are highlighted. In this, we echo the message of the local and regional governments group.  

To close, and related to this last point, I invite the co-facilitators and others to come and see how libraries are delivering on the goals of digital cooperation in reality, not least at the SNFPL where you are in New York.