We are a key step closer to the UN Summit of the Future, with the publication of a zero draft of the Pact for the Future. This article gives an idea of key features of this text, and links to IFLA’s own responses, highlighting the importance of culture and knowledge.

Following an initial round of inputs over the end of the year, a zero draft of the Pact for the Future has been released by the co-facilitators of this process, the UN Ambassadors of Germany and Namibia.

The Pact will be the main output of the Summit of the Future, the key United Nations event taking place this year, which will bring to a close a round of work that started five years ago with the preparations for the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.

In line with the theme of the celebrations there, the emphasis is on how the United Nations – and the whole infrastructure of international organisations and agencies – can better deliver on their missions to create a safer, fairer, more sustainable world.

Crucially, the goal is to complement existing initiatives, not least the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals, by setting out commitments and frameworks which aim to maximise the positive impact of the UN’s work.

Given the key role of knowledge in enabling progress against policy goals across the board, it is not hard to identify how and where libraries can contribute to the objectives of the Pact. The zero draft does this to some extent, but improvements are certainly possible.

This article sets out some of the more promising aspects, as well as where libraries may want to focus efforts now.

What we can celebrate

Recognition of the importance of knowledge: already in the second paragraph, the draft highlights how advances in knowledge offer the possibility to deliver a better future for all. Importantly, it notes that this is not certain – knowledge, alongside new technologies, need to be properly managed to realise their potential.

Strong references to human rights: throughout the document, there is an emphasis on the need to guarantee the full range of human rights to everyone. While the right of freedom of access to information is not mentioned explicitly, it is clearly covered. Positively, cultural rights are talked about more than once, helping to bring focus onto a set of rights which are too often neglected.

The focus on science, technology and innovation: a whole chapter is dedicated to science, technology and innovation, as well as digital cooperation (although there is no real content on this here, as it is left to the Global Digital Compact, which will be added as an annex in due course. In particular, the reference to science-policy-society interfaces is welcome, as is – in particular – the mention of open science as having a key role in building the inclusivity and impact of science and research.

What we can improve

Little consideration of culture: despite the clear recognition in the Declaration from the 2023 SDG Summit of the role of culture in driving success across different policy areas, the Pact for the Future currently contains no serious effort to mobilise culture – including cultural actors, institutions, heritage and insights – as a means of helping the international system achieve its goals. While references to cultural rights are welcome, a more concerted, positive approach is needed to realise this potential.

Underestimating the power of informed societies: the UN’s work on Information Integrity has been powerful in underlining how important it is that everyone has access to accurate, reliable and verifiable information and the skills to use it. However, this does not get a reference in the context of the Pact for the Future, despite representing an area where greater focus would very much facilitate the achievement of wider UN goals, as well as key initiatives already featuring in the Pact, not least around how to ensure youth and future generations are able to fulfil their potential.

Mobilising knowledge within the UN and beyond: A further point which is well explored in the context of work around UN 2.0, but which barely receives a reference in the Pact, is the role of knowledge management in building the resilience and impact of UN bodies and others. Indeed, the UN has the potential to support stronger knowledge management wherever it operates, led by its own network of committed libraries and librarians.


IFLA has submitted its own comments on the Pact, which you can view here.