IFLA was present at the World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education, held on 14-16 November 2022 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. With around 1500 delegates, it provided an opportunity for ministers, officials and experts to share updates and ideas. Thanks to engagement by IFLA’s representative, Marianne Martens, Chair of the Section on Library Services to Children and Young Adults, libraries were recognised in the resulting Tashkent Declaration for their role in supporting early years care. 

The care and support children receive in the first years of their lives can have a significant impact not just on their life chances, but also on the wellbeing of their families and others. This is a crucial time for developing key skills, including of course social skills, which in turn affect how well they can benefit from formal education.

Yet just as noticeable is the tendency in many countries to overlook the potential contribution of libraries when developing plans and strategies. In pursuing a siloed approach, focusing only on more traditional providers and home-provision, opportunities are missed by UNESCO and governments alike.

This is despite the fact that around the world, libraries are drawing on their spaces, collections and staff to provide major support to parents and children alike, as spaces for play, centres for literacy promotion, and sites to access information about childcare itself. The countless story-times, play areas, and other offers that libraries guarantee represent a major contribution to ensuring inclusive and effective early years education and care.

The World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education (WCECCE) worked to reaffirm existing commitments to ensuring that every child benefits from high quality care in their first years, as a right. As UNESCO Assistant Director General for Education, Stefania Giannini, underlined in her open words, delivering on this right should be part of a pact for the future.

Kailesh Satiyarti, Nobel Peace Prize winner 2014, underlined the urgency of action, and called on governments and other stakeholders to work together, while the UNESCO Chair for Early Childhood and Inclusive Early Intervention note the need to gather more information.

Others emphasised the benefits that good care provisions could bring for others, as well as its overall pro-equity effects.

Though her participation, Marianne Martens, Chair of the Section on Library Services to Children and Young Adults, not only drew on the lessons shared by speakers, but was able to bring in the library perspective.

A key achievement was the inclusion of reference to libraries in the Tashkent Declaration, which underlines that libraries should be part of more innovative service provision. furthermore, the same paragraph tackles the need to find ways to support children with particular needs.

Across the sessions, panels, and presentations, there were wider opportunities for more participation and engagement by IFLA. In part, this is a case of working to avoid unnecessary duplication between the work of libraries and of preschools and early learning centers around the world. This work, rather, would benefit from even greater school/library collaborations.

We look forward to continuing to work with UNESCO in this area, and thank Marianne once again for participating on behalf of IFLA.