In early February, IFLA observed the 14th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions – one of the governing bodies set up by the 2005 Convention on the subject.

Our goal was to hear from the governments, known as State Parties, that make up the Intergovernmental Committee, as well as the UNESCO Secretariat, as they discussed priorities, challenges, and opportunities for the implementation of the Convention in these challenging times.

Below are our key take-aways. In addition, we have included ideas for how the library field can use this is inform their activity and advocacy in the future.

Culture is essential for resilience, recovery, and sustainable development

The 14th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee marked UNESCO’s official launch of the International Year of the Creative Economy for Sustainable Development.

The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened creative industries globally, but also calls to mind the power of culture and creativity for inspiring resilience and recovery to build back better.

In this spirit, UNESCO remarked on the critical contribution of culture to wellbeing, and the transformative potential of culture as an underutilised accelerator for SDG delivery.

However, they also warned that urgent action to involve and support all stakeholders in creativity and access to culture is necessary. UNESCO identified key areas of concern for culture and creative industries, including the impact the pandemic will have on access, as well as on the livelihoods of cultural professionals, the accelerated digitisation of cultural goods and services, new threats against the diversity of cultural expression, and linkages between public health, arts, and culture. 

These concerns may already be familiar to the global library field. Advocating for libraries as essential parts of recovery, through their role in informing, connecting, and providing opportunity to their communities, will be a priority for 2021.

Access and Participation in the Digital Environment

Access to digital technology and the internet, as well as the necessary training to use it safely and effectively, means access to the means of creation, production, dissemination, and exchange of cultural goods and services.

UNESCO has noted that the pandemic has heightened this need, as the closure of physical spaces makes access to the digital environment a pre-requisite for equitable participation in culture creation and economy.

To aid State Parties, UNESCO published the Open Roadmap for the implementation of the 2005 Convention in the Digital Environment in 2018. However, the Secretariat noted that to date, only eighteen State Parties have used this resource to create their own national roadmap.

The Intergovernmental Committee invites Parties that have not yet started the development of their national roadmap to undertake that process. Going forward, UNESCO will aid State Parties in this through the creation of an assistance programme based on peer learning, information-sharing and advocacy initiatives.

Libraries and Culture in the Digital Environment

IFLA addressed the Intergovernmental Committee to welcome this initiative to support States in creating their national roadmaps. We also recalled that UNESCO’s Open Roadmap encourages State Parties to “Provide support to cultural and media institutions so that they become learning spaces for the public to acquire digital literacy skills and competencies through creation and experimentation.”

Libraries have an important role to play in building overall capacity towards implementing the 2005 Convention, in particular in the digital environment.

We look forward to working with our Members to help them advocate for their role in promoting, protecting, and providing access to diverse cultural expressions in the digital environment.

What can you do now?

For more on libraries interacting with diverse cultural expressions, reference IFLA’s Get into Guide for the 2005 Convention.