The Middle East and North Africa leg of the United Nations’ round of regional sustainable development fora, in preparation for the High Level Political Forum in July, took place last month in Beirut, Lebanon. We are grateful to Dr Imad Bachir, IFLA’s representative, for this report.

Photo of three people sitting at a table in a conference centre, with banners and screens behind them, and materials on the table in front of them
The IFLA delegation at the Arab Forum for Sustainable Development: Dr Imad Bachir (right), Randa Al Chidiac (left), and Maya Nahra from the UN Library (middle)

On 14-16 March 2023, the Chair of IFLA’s Middle East and North Africa Regional Division Committee, Dr. Imad Bachir, and Committee member Randa Al Chidiac attended the Arab Forum for Sustainable Development (AFSD) at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon.

This was a great opportunity to meet the ESCWA team, coordinate with representatives of Arab countries involved in the SDGs and the official high-ranking Arab delegations who attended the forum.

Participation in this forum gave us the opportunity personally to meet with the national committee coordinators of the Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) in some of the Arab countries. Furthermore, we attended a discussion panel session involving the Arab countries that are presenting their VNRs in 2023 including Syria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the Union of the Comoros.

In the 3rd main session, my colleague, Randa Al Chidiac, gave a lighting talk outlining the active role, experience and achievements of Arab libraries in implementing the UN 2023 SDGs.

The first example was the Ariad Public Library in Tunis and its role in empowering digitally illiterate women with the necessary internet and the social media skills to better their business financially and increase their self-confidence.

Meanwhile, the example shared from Lebanon was from the Amioun Public Library which adopted a policy of inclusivity and reached out to its farming community by organizing seminars on how to combat insects harmful to the olive crop and later providing the necessary resources to keep the farmers updated.

This attracted numerous people to the IFLA MENA booth in who inquired about IFLA and about the contributions made by libraries in their countries, as well as ways they could be involved.