Partnering for development: a joint interview between Jamaica’s SDG focal point and libraries
31 January 2022
Through our work around the Sustainable Development Goals, IFLA argues that libraries are essential partners for development, and should be integrated into planning and implementation. Voluntary National Reviews provide a particular opportunity to set out where these partnerships stand, and how we can go further.
There are already some very strong examples of governments engaging libraries fully, both in wider SDG work, and in voluntary national reviews, with Jamaica right at the forefront.
To give an idea of how things are working there, with a Voluntary National Review as the focus, we’re very happy to share a joint interview with Ms Latoya Clarke, Programme Director/Focal Point, Sustainable Development Goals Secretariat, Planning Institute of Jamaica, and Mrs Odean Cole-Phoenix, Technical Information Manager & Coordinator, Government Libraries Information Network of Jamaica, Planning Institute of Jamaica.
We hope it provides an example and inspiration for others!
How much of an influence are the SDGs having in the way that Jamaica is planning for the future?
Latoya Clarke (LT): The SDGs have been integrated into Jamaica’s National Development Plan Vison 2030 Jamaica. The SDG goals are aligned to the national goals and outcomes whilst the targets are aligned at the strategic level. Ministries, Departments and Agencies align their corporate and operational plans to Vision 2030 Jamaica and the SDGs. Local sustainable development plans, which are prepared at the parish level, are also aligned with Vision 2030 Jamaica and the SDGs.
How does the preparation of the Voluntary National Review contribute to this?
LT: The voluntary national reviews are conducted based on the scheduling of the three-year medium term socio economic policy framework (MTF) cycle. The performance report of each MTF contributes to reporting on the integrated development framework. The outlook and priorities to achieve the SDGs by 2030 are informed by the development of the new MTF.
What is the role of the Planning Institute of Jamaica in this?
LT: The Planning Institute of Jamaica is the National Focal Point for coordinating the implementation, and monitoring of the SDGs. The SDG Secretariat in the PIOJ has responsibility, inter alia, for monitoring and reporting on the SDGs, including conducting the voluntary national review process.
How engaged has the library field in Jamaica been with the SDGs so far? (Ms Odean-Phoenix)
Odean Cole-Phoenix (OCP): The truth is, as expressed by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Libraries around the world (including Jamaica) offer a wide range of products and services that promote the achievement of each one of the SDGs. From promoting literacy to offering free access to information, libraries are safe, welcoming spaces, at the heart of communities. They come with the indispensable support of a dedicated staff with a deep understanding of local needs. They advance digital inclusion through access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT), internet connection and skills. They promote innovation, the world’s knowledge for current and future generations.
What role in particular do you see for government libraries in supporting the delivery of the SDGs?
OCP: Government Libraries in Jamaica aim to provide the country’s workforce with credible, authentic and current information, skills, abilities and tools to enable a functional and sustainable government. Thus, contributing to “promoting peace, ethics, transparency and good governance; Public access to information and Intellectual Property Rights”.
Where did the idea of a workshop bringing together the Planning Institute of Jamaica and the library field come from?
OCP: It was 4 years ago in 2017, following the adoption of the SDGs and as part of the process of localization, that the PIOJ and the library community collaborated to define the role of libraries in contributing to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. A review of the libraries contribution to the SDG is considered to be a relevant and a natural next step, as libraries have been actively engaged with supporting the process of implementation. This review enabled members of the library network to evaluate actions that support SDG implementation and to identify areas for improvement. The contribution of libraries was therefore reviewed for the first VNR in 2018 and is being reviewed for the second VNR to be presented in 2022.
How have these initial contacts helped in refection on the preparation of the Voluntary National Review?
LT: Libraries play a critical role in SDG implementation and have the potential to impact all 17 goals. The role of libraries in supporting data dissemination, capacity building and advocacy will be elaborated based on the data collection conducted during the library week exercise. This will be informed by the consultation report prepared from fielding a survey to over 30 members of the Jamaica Library and Information Network.
What changes do you expect to see in the way that libraries go about their work?
OCP: Firstly, a shift from print to electronic resources to increase the reach of clients. Secondly, a virtual library services delivery, and reference services being delivered by every type of library. Thirdly, an increase of Cybrarians exploring research and repacking the library service for the 21st century
What are the next steps?
Both: The survey identified areas of support required for more effective participation in SDG implementation. Continued partnership with libraries and other stakeholders is needed including strengthening their capacity to deliver services in line with SDG implementation strategies.
What recommendations could you make to libraries and authorities responsible for SDG coordination in other countries?
Both: First, promote active participation of libraries in governance and advocacy. Libraries are important institutions in communities and have the potential to influence development through participation and provision of data and information to inform decision-making. Second, strengthen the capacity of libraries, to include training of staff and provision of resources to undertake their functions in SDG implementation in recognition of the fact that libraries have the potential to influence outcomes under all 17 goals. This requires assessing the roles that libraries currently play and fully exploit their potential, particularly in the area of research in all sectors, as well as through the application of technology in critical areas such as education delivery.