Time to realise libraries’ potential to support development: IFLA and the UN SDG Summit
15 September 2023
While the evidence is clear that libraries’ contribution to sustainable development is as broad as it is deep, it is also too often unrealised. IFLA will be participating at the Sustainable Development Goals Action Weekend in order to change perceptions and attitudes, and secure a stronger place for our profession.
Led by IFLA Secretary Sharon Memis and Chair of the Regional Council Alejandro Santa, IFLA will have a key role in two side events, as well as using the opportunity to broader networks with other stakeholders.
We will be making sure that they understand how the unique combination of staff skills, often rare, valuable or hard-to -get resources, and non-commercial spaces makes libraries a key partner.
Key arguments for us at the meeting will include the following:
It is time to integrate libraries more systematically into strategies and plans for development: it has been a record year for references to libraries in Voluntary National Reviews, underlining the growing sense of libraries as contributing to development. However, we need to go further, in order to avoid missing opportunities. A particular weakness is that policies are too often put together without talking to libraries, or engaging them otherwise. We need to correct this, and see the benefits that a more informed society will bring.
Libraries are a key part of the success of digital public infrastructures: a key theme at the meetings will be the idea of general-purpose infrastructures that allow for everyone to carry out key activities such as payments and engagement with government services. Yet for these infrastructures to be meaningful, people need both to have connectivity, and often the support to use them. Moreover, through running research repositories and making the infrastructure worthwhile by giving access to content, libraries themselves are actors in this space.
The inclusion of culture in the SDG Summit draft declaration is welcome, and now we must go further: the latest version of the SDG Summit declaration underlines the role of culture in supporting development. This is a welcome development, and we look forward to it being confirmed. However, this should only be a step towards integrating culture more effectively into SDG delivery today, and a future goal.
The work of the UN and governments needs to be knowledge-based – libraries make this happen: there are a number of sessions focused on science at the Summit, and how we can better transform research into policy outcomes. This is of course something that parliamentary and government libraries do all of the time. However, the increased emphasis on the need for evidence as part of wider cultural change at the UN should we hope, lead to greater support for UN libraries and those elsewhere.
IFLA will be making these points during two side events, both taking place on Saturday 16 September:
Collaboration as a strategy for accelerating action to achieve the SDGs – led by the Argentine Ministry of Social Affairs, with IFLA Support
Accelerating multilateralism with Transformations in Science Policy Practice Interfaces – this has been organised by Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and the governments of Ireland and New Zealand.
These sessions, convened by Member States will offer great opportunities to talk about libraries outside of the library field. We’re looking forward to sharing ideas, and bringing them back to the field. Watch out for more here!