IFLA’s President Christine Mackenzie and Secretary General Gerald Leitner have issued the below statement concerning the situation in Afghanistan.

Alongside the international community, IFLA has been watching the events of the past days unfold in Afghanistan closely.

Our concern is first and foremost for the people of Afghanistan, particularly those groups that are most vulnerable, including women and girls.

We join our voice to the global call for the human rights of all Afghan citizens to be respected and upheld. As the voice of the global library field, we put particular emphasis on the right to education and access to information, freedom of opinion and expression, and cultural rights for all.

Cultural Rights and Safeguarding of Cultural Heritage

To ensure the right to participate in cultural life, the diverse cultural heritage of Afghanistan in all its forms, both tangible and intangible, must be safeguarded.

IFLA calls on all authorities across Afghanistan to safeguard libraries and their collections, including documentary heritage collections held by citizens in private collections, as well as all memory institutions, museums, archives, galleries, and monuments and sites across the country.

We put particular emphasis on the need to mitigate threats associated with illicit trafficking and theft of cultural property, to which documentary heritage is particularly vulnerable.

We therefore call on all authorities to carry out this safeguarding of cultural heritage, and of those professionals who work to preserve it, without discrimination due to ethnicity, gender, religion, or political opinion, to ensure it remains accessible for future generations.

In particular, we join our voices with fellow international cultural organisations to call on authorities to continue abiding by their international obligations to protect heritage as a state-party to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property and its protocols, and the UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

Finally, IFLA honours those who have already risked their lives to protect the country’s documentary heritage and cultural heritage in all forms. We will continue to liaise with our network in the region and international partners to monitor the situation and provide any support that is possible.

Christine Mackenzie
IFLA President 2019-2021

Gerald Leitner
IFLA Secretary General

19 August 2021

See also the statement of the UN Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights, Karima Bennoune, on the situation in Afghanistan.