Human creativity, expressed through culture and the arts, is a natural resource.

Innovation driven by creativity is how we imagine solutions to the pressing challenges of our time. Culture and heritage are how we construct our identities, values, and worldview, and how we share them with others. The arts are avenues for expression, as well as for participation in the creative economy.

Today, UNESCO officially launches the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. Over the course of 2021, governments are invited to reflect on and invest in ways to support the creative economy, including addressing inequalities in cultural participation.

Libraries are a key resource for fostering equitable participation in culture on the local, national, and international scale. This International Year is an opportunity to focus on library advocacy for culture, access, and sustainable development.

Culture and Creativity for Sustainable Development

The decision to designate a specific year comes in recognition of the need to “promote sustained and inclusive economic growth, foster innovation and provide opportunities, benefits and empowerment for all and respect for all human rights” (source).

IFLA has been active in promoting the role of libraries in fulfilling sustainable development goals relating to education and learning for all, cultural preservation, access to information, and universal literacy, including digital, media and information literacy and skills. See Libraries and the SDGs for more.

Although the benefits of achieving these goals are far-reaching, they also enable – and in turn, are strengthened by – inclusive cultural and creative participation.

Access to education and lifelong learning for all connects people to possibility. It allows for the transfer and nurturing of skills relating to the creation of culture, and to the mechanisms for participating in the creative economy.

Digital, media and information literacy opens the door for participation on digital platforms. In the face of digital transformation – especially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – the skills to participate in e-commerce and digital creation are more important than ever.

Access to information means access to one another. It means the ability to experience and be informed by the culture both from your community and from people around the world, and so to participate in community and civic life.

Cultural Preservation allows cultural expressions to remain protected and accessible, both for the people of today and for future generations.

The Protection and Promotion of Diverse Cultural Expressions

It is fitting that this International Year is launched during this week’s session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. This is one of the governing bodies set up by the 2005 Convention for the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions.

IFLA is participating as an observer in this session and will continue interacting with UNESCO in this area of competency. This includes continued engagement with the Secretariat of the 2005 Convention, as well as efforts to help our members engage with State Parties.

See our Get into Guide on the 2005 Convention to learn more.

Take action!

A good way to kick off the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development is by seeing what your country is doing in terms protecting and promoting diverse cultural expressions, and how libraries currently factor in.

Here are three steps you can take this week:  

  1. Check if your country has ratified the 2005 Convention
  2. Have a look at their most recent report and search for “libraries”.
  3. Reflect on your library’s activities which may help protect and promote diverse cultural expressions and participation in the creative economy. Write down your ideas – they will be useful for advocacy later in the year!

Stay tuned for more over the course of 2021. You can get in touch with us by emailing: