Making library voices heard at the highest level: successful IFLA participation at UN HLPF
26 July 2022
A strong delegation of libraries engaged actively at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. In addition to building links with senior decision-makers, they gained valuable insights to share with colleagues, contributing to building a more sustainable library field.
The High-Level Political Forum is the main event in the annual Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calendar. Taking place in person for the first time in three years, it brings together UN agencies, national governments, experts and stakeholders working on the SDGs and the wider UN 2030 Agenda.
There is, in particular, high-level attendance from countries undertaking Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) of their implementation of the goals, and sharing their conclusions and ideas with their peers.
Its aim is to build a common understanding of where we stand today on the implementation of the SDGs, to learn from the experiences of each other in this, and to renew momentum towards 2030.
A strong and diverse library voice
IFLA brought a strong delegation this year, with librarians from 7 different countries on four continents. Six came from countries doing VNRs, and had themselves already engaged with their governments beforehand in order to ensure recognition of libraries as partners for development.
Members of the delegation were:
- Ayanda Lebele (Botswana)
- Matseliso Moshoeshoe-Chadzingwa (Lesotho)
- Premila Gamage (Sri Lanka)
- Mara Jekabsone (Latvia)
- Alejandro Santa (Argentina)
- Odean Cole-Phoenix (Jamaica)
- Julius Jefferson (US)
- Loida Garcia Febo (US)
- Shauntee Simpson-Burns (US)
Each one came to the UN with the goal of connecting with their governments, making the most of the opportunity to engage directly with ministers and ambassadors, as well as to build awareness of libraries among other stakeholders – and potential partners – working to deliver on the SDGs.
For IFLA as a whole, it was also a chance to understand better the key themes focusing minds in New York and around the world.
To prepare, the library delegation already met the day before meetings began in order to share ideas and strategise around how to make the most of the time available at the Forum. They also shared their own ideas with us beforehand (here, here and here)
A unique opportunity to make connections
44 countries undertook Voluntary National Reviews this year, presenting reports setting out how they are delivering on the Goals. These reviews, according to the UN guidance, are supposed to include consultation with the full range of actors involved in SDG implementation, and so logically libraries.
In advance of the Forum, IFLA encouraged and supported library associations and libraries to get involved, drawing on our existing materials around VNRs.
All of our six librarians from VNR countries therefore not only ensured that libraries were mentioned in their Reports (see our report for more), with Latvia and Argentina in particular including major sections on libraries, but could also spend time with ambassadors, ministers, and even a president during their stay in New York.
These connections will give libraries new possibilities to advocate for the policies and support necessary to fulfil their missions. Look out for our upcoming piece about the insights gained by our delegation for more.
Particular highlights included our Latvian delegate, Mara Jekabsone, taking the floor to comment on her country’s VNR, ensuring that libraries were referenced multiple times in discussions, and Alejandro Santa’s well-received intervention at the Parliamentary Forum, underlining the importance of libraries and information for functioning democracies.
Insights for future advocacy
The Forum also offered a chance to understand better the issues focusing minds in New York. High on the agenda is the topic of misinformation and how to promote integrity in public life.
IFLA worked with the UN Dag Hammarskjold Library to hold a side-event during the Forum, looking in particular at the trends shaping access to quality information. The members of the libraries delegation all shared their insights, which will be shared soon as a short publication, aimed at informing work on the upcoming UN Code of Conduct on Integrity in Public Information.
There was continued interest in the role of culture and cultural institutions in development, although this remains underappreciated as a driver of progress. IFLA worked alongside the Culture 2030 Goal campaign to hold a side event highlighting the experience of local governments in successfully integrating culture into their own development planning. The recording of the event is available online.
sri lankParticipation also gave libraries a front-row seat in learning about other relevant initiatives, notably around small island developing states, inclusive internet access, and local government development.
It also allowed us to learn more about how to engage most effectively with governments, providing lessons that we will be looking to share in September with the field as a whole.
Look out for upcoming articles with insights from the members of our delegation, and a report on our side-event at the UN Library.