Update on IFLA’s Work on Sustainable Development – June 2020
16 June 2020
IFLA is continuing in its work around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), both in direct engagement, and in supporting members at the national levels.
The below update, distributed to participants in IFLA’s International Advocacy Programme, provides an overview of activities and resources in the past weeks.
1. VOLUNTARY NATIONAL REVIEWS
The key messages from the 47 countries carrying out Voluntary National Reviews this year have now been published on the UN website (on this page, scroll down and select ‘2020’), with a number also publishing their official reports as well. Congratulations to Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, India, Liberia and Nigeria for the fact that libraries are referenced in your countries’ reports. As more final reports are published, we hope to see more!
We will have an opportunity to shape the statements made by civil society organisations on each of the VNR reports, and so have been in contact with libraries in all VNR countries where we have contacts in order to ask for potential inputs. If you have not been contacted, and should have been, please let me know!
In the meanwhile, we have also continued to publish new parts of our guide on how to engage in VNRs, highlighting the value of working with partners, communicating messages to the public, and preparing for the High-Level Political Forum itself (see below). We hope that these will be useful for everyone in due course in promoting your messages.
2. HIGH LEVEL POLITICAL FORUM
Clearly the COVID-19 Pandemic has had a significant impact on planning for the High-Level Political Forum, which will now not only be mostly virtual, but also focus strongly on responding to the pandemic. Nonetheless, the focus on transformative actions across the SDGs remains, and stakeholders have been invited to focus on identifying what they can do to unlock development across the board. If you are interested in following the discussion, the overall programme is available on the UN website. To note that Voluntary National Reviews will take place on 14-16 July, according to the schedule on page 2 of this document.
While there will not be the opportunity to interact directly with ministers, officials and other contacts this year, IFLA has already ensured that libraries, information and knowledge feature in the submissions made by the NGO Major Group. As set out above, we can also shape statements made on Voluntary National Reviews. There will also be side events, with many likely offering the possibility to ask questions online – as the final programme is released, we will share more information.
Finally, we will also be in touch shortly with a template letter to ambassadors and delegations to the High Level Political Forum encouraging them to see access to information as an accelerator of development, and a precondition of progress.
3. IDENTIFYING DEVELOPMENT ACCELERATORS
A key way in which you can draw attention to the role of libraries in delivering the SDGs is to share stories about the work that you are currently doing on one or more of the SDGs. There is an open call for ‘acceleration actions’ (see more in our blog from last year), where you can share information, and ensure that the work of libraries is more widely recognised.
Work is continuing on the United Nations 75th birthday programme, with a draft political direction currently being discussed among Member States. This will focus on the changes that need to be made to the multilateral system to help it deal better with the challenges the world faces. You can still get involved in the conversation, by filling in the survey directly, reading more news on the UN’s dedicated website (which has lots of helpful briefs and materials), and using our guide: Get into UN75.
5. CULTURE, COVID-19 AND THE SDGS – STATEMENT OPEN FOR SIGNATURE
The COVID-19 Pandemic has had a huge impact on lives and livelihoods around the world. At times of uncertainty, as libraries have witnessed through the surge in demand for digital content, there is a need for culture in order to promote wellbeing and resilience. However, both now – with many in the cultural sector finding it difficult to work – and in the future – where pressure on budgets seems inevitable – this cannot be taken for granted. IFLA therefore joined other members of the #Culture2030Goal campaign in preparing a Statement on Culture and COVID-19. You can sign up to the statement using this form.
6. NEW LIBRARY MAP OF THE WORLD RESOURCES AND LIBRARY STAT OF THE WEEK
There is more and more information on IFLA’s Library Map of the World! With monthly updates to the IFLA-L mailing list, many of you will have seen information about new data, stories and country pages. In particular, there are new stories from Argentina (on gender equality, inclusion of Roma populations, and building technology skills while bridging the generational divide), Canada (on support to refugees), and country profiles for Namibia, St Lucia, Suriname.
We have also now got over 20 posts in our Library Stat of the Week series, which includes analysis not only of differences in the populations and areas that libraries serve, but also deeper looks at how numbers of public and community libraries and libraries correlate with levels of economic, education and gender equality. While it is not possible to show causality, it becomes clear that societies with more libraries and librarians tend to be fairer, with more social mobility, fewer low-skilled adults, and smaller gaps between women and men.
7. UN COMMISSION ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
The days of physical meetings may seem a long way away now, but one of the last major UN meetings before restrictions were introduced was the Commission on Social Development, which focused for the first time on homelessness, and what can be done to help those experiencing it. IFLA was represented, underlining the role of libraries not just as a place of refuge, but also as a key actor in helping people to re-integrate into society. You can read the report of the meeting in our news story.
8. ACCESS TO JUSTICE
While much of our work around SDG16 focuses on its call for access to information, libraries are also major players in delivering other targets under this Goal. One example is Access to Justice, which is mentioned in the long title for the SDG, and in SDG 16.3. Drawing on papers presented at previous WLICs, we have published a report highlighting the contributions that libraries make to ensuring access to legal information as a key pre-condition for access to justice.
9. OPEN GOVERNMENT
Also connected to SDG16 is the need for governments to be transparent and accountable, and to promote participation by all citizens. The Open Government movement has been leading efforts to make this happen for a number of years now, with members committing to produce action plans highlighting what they plan to do. IFLA has reviewed the action plans in place in order to highlight how governments globally have sought to engage libraries, providing useful examples for library associations and libraries elsewhere to draw on in your own advocacy. Download the report to find out more.
10. OTHER NEWS
We have also been active in other areas! We have released an article on how libraries and library associations can engage with foreign embassies in order to support their activities (SDG17), a briefing on how libraries can be involved in community internet networks (SDG9.c), an interview on library engagement in digital inclusion strategies, a checklist on compliance with the 2015 UNESCO Recommendation on safeguarding documentary heritage (SDG11.4), and a submission to the United Nations on libraries, climate change and cultural rights (SDG13).
We have also released blogs on libraries and climate action (SDG13), diversity and multiculturalism (SDG10), the role of health libraries in tackling COVID-19 (SDG3), as well as broader advocacy pieces focusing on trends for libraries post-COVID-19, what a future advocacy agenda may look like, suggested ways to include libraries in economic stimulus packages, the importance of guaranteed public funding for libraries, and tips on how to increase advocacy capacity from home.
We have also seen great engagement around the world, including the database on good library practices linked to the SDGs from Argentina, a webinar (including IFLA’s President Elect, Barbara Lison) and resources from EBLIDA in Europe, the setting up of an SDGs Task Force by the American Library Association. We welcome any further news about what you are doing!