At its meeting in April, the IFLA Governing Board has endorsed Principles of Engagement in library-related activities in times of crisis, conflict or disaster. The Principles are part of IFLA’s Key Initiatives 2011-2012 programme: Cultural Heritage Disaster Reconstruction Programme – Culture is a basic need, a community thrives through its cultural heritage, it dies without it.

The recent turmoil in Syria and Mali, the earthquake in Haiti or the earthquake followed by a tsunami in Japan, IFLA is deeply concerned by the great loss of cultural heritage in recent years due to armed conflicts, crises and natural disasters. The principles aim to encourage safeguarding and respect for cultural property especially by raising awareness and promoting disaster risk management and to strengthen cooperation and participation in cultural heritage activities through UNESCO, the libraries, archives, museums, heritage buildings and sites group and the International Committee of the Blue Shield initiatives and activities.

They advise IFLA and its members on how to monitor areas at risk, advocate for and raise awareness about prevention. In the event of a conflict or disaster, the Principles of Engagement will guide activities in recovery situations and advise IFLA and its members if and how to engage in a particular recovery situation within IFLA’s strategic directions. They establish criteria to guide decisions on whether IFLA and its members would become engaged in post-conflict/disaster recovery and the terms under which it would do so.

To strengthen these efforts and to prevent future damage of cultural heritage, IFLA is currently developing an online ‘at risk register’ of countries and sites where there is a risk for armed conflict or natural disasters. Within the register, libraries with significant cultural heritage items will be identified.

Read the Principles of Engagement