The UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (UNESCO’s 2005 Convention) will convene for their 16th session from 7-10 February in Paris, France.

IFLA is a regular civil society contributor to the work of this convention. IFLA’s role is to ensure libraries are being recognised as fundamental actors in protecting and promoting access to cultural diversity. We achieve this by cooperating with partners from other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to engage with UNESCO Member States and the UNESCO Secretariat, providing input on their work and helping ensure informed decision making.

The Agenda

During their 16th Session, the work of the IGC will include reviewing the Quadrennial National Reports submitted in 2022, in which Parties provide updates on their efforts to implement the Convention over the previous four years.

On that note, we applaud Bosnia and Herzegovina for mentioning in their 2022 report that the priorities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Federal Ministry of Culture and Sports include creating conditions for the development and improvement of library activities.

Further, the IGC will consider some issues which impact on the future potential for IFLA to advocate on behalf of the global library field. These include proposals to promote engagement with cultural organizations, institutions, and small- and medium-sized cultural enterprises, as well as the planning of the 2023 4th Civil Society Forum.

Take a deeper look at a selection of key discussions to which IFLA looks forward to contributing.

Improving Engagement of Cultural Organizations and Institutions

At its 15th session in February 2022, the IGC restated the importance of supporting the efforts of cultural organizations and institutions. This definition includes libraries, who are named among key partners for achieving the goals of the Convention. The IGC asked the UNESCO Secretariat to conduct a reflection on this topic in 2021, the results of which were discussed during its 15th session last year.

At that time, IFLA, alongside fellow CSOs, stressed that UNESCO should avoid duplication of efforts. We suggested UNESCO work to improve existing modalities, such as the Civil Society Forum, to increase opportunities for exchange with Member States and encourage follow-up. IFLA also urged UNESCO to recognise all sizes of cultural organisations and institutions – as large federations like IFLA are representative of all sizes of libraries and can help maintain a global perspective.

In the 16th session, the IGC will consider three proposals for improving engagement.

Of these three proposals, IFLA feels that Proposal 1, which would establish a scheme for formalising engagement between cultural organizations and institutions and UNESCO, would most benefit the global library field.

Libraries are already carrying out projects that demonstrate their commitment to:

  • promote the diversity of programming of cultural content from their territory and the rest of the world.
  • promote the inclusive participation of audiences
  • support engagement with climate change and the environment.
  • conduct awareness-raising and advocacy activities

This proposal would open possibilities for IFLA members to be directly involved with UNESCO activities. It could offer opportunities to bring more attention to work already being done in libraries, and help valorise this work by enabling the library to use the UNESCO logo, as well as by promoting the library’s work at the national and international levels.

When engaging with the IGC, IFLA will reiterate the need to avoid duplication, which the other two proposal risk. IFLA will further stress that the criteria for involvement in any such future scheme must be broad enough to be inclusive of institutions and organisations that work, through a spectrum of means and media, to provide access to diverse cultural expressions.

Improving consultations with micro, small and medium-sized cultural and creative enterprises

Similar to the previous agenda item, Parties expressed interest in facilitated more consultations with this stakeholder group.

In 2022, the IGC reviewed a report on a feasibility study, conducted by the Secretariat, for the creation of a regular consultation mechanism.

Again, IFLA joined partner CSOs to voice concern over the possible duplication of efforts. Many CSOs are federations or representation bodies which include cultural and creative enterprises, and therefore are already working to bring the voices of these stakeholders into consultations.

CSOs suggested Parties consider a potential revision the Convention, to re-evaluate the definition of civil society so as to avoid future questions as to who is included in this stakeholder group.

Similar to the previous point, IFLA welcomes ongoing efforts of UNESCO Member States to consult with libraries to recognise their efforts to promote the diversity of cultural expressions. We hope that the Member States look to improve existing modalities for open discussion, consultation, and engagement – in which civil society organisation of all kinds and sizes are supported in participating.

Participation of Civil Society

Article 11 of the 2005 Convention states that Civil Society Organisations are fundamental actors for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. It calls on Member States to encourage the active participation of civil society in their efforts to implement the convention.

Meeting with the Bureau

On the first day of the 16th Session, CSOs are invited to sit down with the Bureau of the IGC. This meeting allows civil society observers to raise specific issues of importance to them. It enables further participation with all committee members over the coming days.

IFLA will attend alongside CSO partners to share input on behalf of the library field.

Preparation for the Civil Society Forum

Perhaps the key item on the agenda for the 16th IGC meeting for civil society organisations concerns the upcoming 4th Civil Society Forum, to be held in June 2023.

IFLA took an active role in the 3rd Civil Society Forum in 2021. Revisit the outcomes and recommendations from this event here.

At its 16th meeting, the IGC will consider preliminary proposals for the organisation of the upcoming 4th Forum.

IFLA, alongside fellow CSOs, has stressed the need for Parties to ensure a better follow-up on the recommendations presented in the framework of the previous editions of the Forum. This follow-up might include, for example, additional joint working sessions, and integration of our recommendations in the work plan and activities of the Convention.

IFLA looks forward to working closely with other civil society organisations, member states, and the UNESCO Secretariat in preparation for the 4th Civil Society Forum in June 2023. We hope it will be an opportunity to continue bring voices from the global library field to the table, in order to inform action and forward planning in support of the convention’s implementation.

Learn more about the UNESCO 2005 Convention:

Get into the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

IFLA’s new guide takes a look at the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, why it matters to libraries, and how to put it to use for library advocacy.
This Convention is a commitment at the global level to culture, in recognition of its importance ...