Randa Chidiac and Dr Fawz Abdallah, IFLA and Lebanese Library Association, at the Arab Forum for Sustainable Development​Faced with major challenges around literacy and making best use of information and knowledge, the Arab world needs its libraries as much as ever. With them, development can work for everyone. IFLA attended the Arab Sustainable Development Forum (AFSD) 2018, underlining that political discussions had to be followed with practical action, and that in this, libraries were key players.

The fourth of the five regional conferences organised by the UN ahead of this year’s High Level Political Forum, the Arab Forum on Sustainable Development took place on 22-24 April in Beirut, Lebanon. Fawz Abdallah and Randa Chidiac from the Lebanese Library Association (LLA) represented IFLA, participating in sessions, making the case for libraries, and talking to attendees about the importance of working with our institutions.

The conferences, each organised by one of the UN’s regional economic and social commissions, focus on reviewing progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals at a regional level. They are a forum for sharing ideas and best practices, and developing a message to send to the global meeting in New York. In particular, it is an opportunity to support those countries undertaking voluntary national reviews of their own practices.

In a region that has seen – and continues to see – serious upheaval in recent years, there was much optimism about the future. Nonetheless, as the Syrian representative noted, the Sustainable Development Goals are an ongoing mission, not something that can be ticked off the list.

With libraries working in the areas covered by the goals long before the 2030 Agenda was developed, this sense of a long-term mission is clear for our institutions.

Opening Session of the Arab Forum for Sustainable Development 2018Too many, in the Arab world and elsewhere, still struggle with inadequate levels of literacy, and more can be done to promote home-grown innovation and provide access to information to tackle a range of social challenges. The practical help they can offer in promoting literacy, as a backbone for science and research, and as guardians of cultural heritage should be recognised and supported.

Dr Abdallah and Ms Chidiac took part in discussions, underlining this role, and distributed IFLA materials about how libraries deliver all of the SDGs. They also made important contacts with national politicians, and UN officials, opening up the possibility for rich collaboration in the years to come.

Read more about IFLA’s work on libraries and development, and about the regional fora in Europe and North America, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The African forum takes place on 2-4 May.