The 41st General Conference of UNESCO (the United Nations Education, Science, and Cultural Organization) will take place from 9-24 November 2021 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France.

The General Conference is held every two years. It brings together representatives of UNESCO’s Member States to determine the policies and the main lines of work for UNESCO, alongside observers such as non-governmental organisations like IFLA.

IFLA is an official partner organisation of UNESCO. We uphold the believe that the values of libraries align with the mission of UNESCO, and we work to strengthen ties to the organisation as well as to the National Commissions who connect UNESCO’s work to decision-making and activities at the national level.

We will be following the proceedings of this year’s General Conference closely. Stay tuned for more as we help identify actions that libraries can take to contribute to the work of UNESCO.

For now, here is a look at what’s coming up and why it matters for libraries.

On the Agenda

Included on the agenda this year is consideration and adoption of UNESCO’s next Medium-Term Strategy for 2022-2029, a period that aligns closely with the final years of the United Nations Agenda 2030. UNESCO and many organisations that work alongside it will look to this strategy for actions that will contribute to delivery on the Sustainable Development Goals.

The General Conference will also consider the draft text of a UNESCO recommendation on open science and draft text of a recommendation on the ethics of artificial intelligence. IFLA will report on outcomes of the General Conference and recommended actions following the proceedings.

Why is this important to Libraries?

Engaging in work to achieve UNESCO’s objectives, such as those outlined in the Medium-Term Strategy, provides opportunities to highlight how libraries contribute to broad-reaching societal goals.

In IFLA’s engagement, we seek to highlight how essential libraries and library professionals are for success in UNESCO’s mission, across its education, culture, and communication and information workstreams. Building on this, we work to launch or influence initiatives which support our institutions, the communities we serve, and the goals we seek to achieve.

Engaging with UNESCO, at the global, regional and national levels, can help amplify our message and help us advocate for the policies and laws that will help libraries provide the best possible services to their users.

How IFLA Takes Action

 IFLA has contacted National Associations in our network to inform them of the upcoming General Conference and suggest ways they can use the opportunity to take part in library advocacy.

In particular, we have drafted a letter to UNESCO National Commissions, highlighting some of the ways libraries contribute to the mission of UNESCO. Moreover, the letter urges delegates, as they engage with UNESCO and fellow Member States during the proceedings of this year’s General Conference, to reflect on the role that libraries, in their country and globally, can have in delivering UNESCO’s priorities.

You are welcome to contact your National Library Association, other relevant national associations or institutions, or contacts that you have at your National Commission to UNESCO, to encourage that this message is shared.  If you are interested in taking action, let us know — IFLA can assist you with the next steps.

Do not hesitate to get in touch: claire.mcguire@ifla.org