Monthly Archives: July 2017

IFLA@HLPF: Leaders’ Perspective Day 3 – #motorsforchange, even on a Saturday

Imagine – the UN was closed on Saturday! We’ve just got our #motorsforchange up to cruising speed, so we used our time wisely — with the promise of a memorable jazz session later in the evening at the famous “Showman’s” in Harlem.

We were treated to some great Saturday workshops! Even though we wish cloning was possible so we could attend more events at once, we had to make a choice: attend the SDG16 and Justice: National Civil Society Advocacy Workshop at the World Vision International or Citizen Accountability and inclusion in the Voluntary National Reviews at the UN Church Center. We decided to split into two groups and exchange impressions later.


IFLA's International Leaders' Programme Associates

(l-r) Ingrid Bon, Helena Asamoah-Hassan, Vesna Vuksan, Elvira Lapuz, Jonathan Hernandez-Perez

SDG16 and Justice: National Civil Society Advocacy Workshop took place at World Vision International’s offices, not far form the UN, was organized by the Transparency, Accountability and Participation Network. There were numerous shared experiences and many challenges were brought up regarding the Goal 16.


The SDG16 Advocacy Toolkit (available for download) was presented at the session, and aims at Capacity Building as an important level in pursuit of the SDGs. It provides top level guidance for engaging with Goal 16 at the national level, developing advocacy plans around Goal 16, working with international processes and various other stakeholders and many other tools and tips.


Apart from general announcements and information, several interesting cases were highlighted. One of them included the UNDP Commission in Palestine that was formed with the aim of developing aid strategy and explaining that only a tiny part of population in the country has access to legal aid. Hundreds of citizens do not have legal representatives and private lawyers were too expensive. If they chose the latter, poor individuals just become poorer, selling whatever they owned. But without representation, they received longer sentences because they didn’t have anyone to stand by their side.


This story, and the UNDP strategy, did not work out. They had to determine a different strategy which included working with Government as it was their task to secure the right to legal aid for everyone. This change is pending at the moment, but has put a lot of pressure to the Bar association.

One of the most impressive presentations came from Colombia by Philip Schonrock, CEPEI, who first made a funny intro – he said that he just got off of plane and was happy to join us, even with small eyes :). More importantly, Philip talked about visualizing data and presented one of the best data websites Data Republica, which was created with a view to increasing transparency in the ecosystem.


Many governments do not see Goal 16 as a priority, especially if it serves to throw a light on corruption. This is the case for Portugal, as explained by Susana Duarte Coroado from Transparency International. The Portuguese government included only a paragraph which states that Portugal agrees with international agreements which allegedly makes everything ok.


In reality, it is quite the opposite: there is a lot of high-level corruption, money laundering, and no mechanisms to control the money flow. It is quite common for certain individuals to own numerous real estate properties such as the Angolans building. While the SDGs could make a difference in such situations, governments tend to look at them merely as an external policy perspective.


So, we have been hearing about SDG 16 extensively for the past two days. As librarians who are interested in the UN 2030 Agenda already know, this goal includes target 16.10 “ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements”. This made us think – why did none of the organizations that participated in the discussions think of librarians or library associations as potential partners? And so we asked.


Jazz session at Showman's, Harlem, New York

Jazz session at the legendary Showman’s to wrap up the day!

Eyebrows lifted, but also hands of those who wanted to comment. The bottom line is that it had never occurred to them. As we spoke several times during the discussions, they remembered us, the fierce librarians, as we managed to clarify some of the points regarding libraries and their role in the SDGs, especially the access to information which is more available than they ever thought.

We also used the opportunity to announce the upcoming report on Development and Access to Information #DA2I by IFLA and handout postcards so they remember to look it up on Monday, July 17th.


All in all, good workshop!

IFLA@HLPF – Leaders’ Perspectives: Day 2

Meeting of the TAP Network Workshop

TAP Network Workshop, 14 July 2017, UN

On our second day at the High Level Political Forum #HLPF we kicked off with a formal side event at the UN Church Center organized by the TAP Network — Beyond VNRs: Global Workshop on Civil Society “Parallel Reports” for SDG16. The TAP Network engages some of the foremost expert organizations on the issues of transparency, accountability and participatory governance. It is SDG16 that includes access to information as an explicit target for Member States.


Shadow reports offer a very different perspective on progress towards SDG16. The indicators presented  allowed us to learn about challenges, drawing on unofficial data across several countries including Brazil (Joara Marchezini, Article 19), Chile (Alberto Precht, Chile Transparente) and Nigeria (Chioma Kanu, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center).


Joara argued, for example, that Brazil may be one of the worst countries if you are trying to find data, whether it is about hospitals officially offering abortion procedure or information about water crisis. The Government refuses to admit there is a crisis, and as for health care they are trying to disable the access to these rights. Pretty challenging!


In Nigeria the situation is also blurry: even though the Government issued a document “from MDGs to SDGs” it is nowhere to be found on their official website.


How else :)?

Among the best takeaways from this session, there was the presentation of the SDG16 Data initiative, Ursula Knudsen Latta who provided a story about a useful platform for Measuring and tracking SDG16, highlighting the importance of translating data into something understandable for all (instead of just offering numbers, maps and graphs without clear meaning). They also offered a great resource on The SDG16 Data Initiative 2017 Global Report. Check it out!


There was a thoroughly engaging discussion on data indicators at the national level and how target setting is considered a major concern among countries with on-going initiatives to gather data. There is also an agreement that there should be a push to harmonize SDGs with national development plans and ensure government commitment. Relevant points were made by participants including the need for better networks and civil society involvement as third party presenters of the indicators and making the most of the synergies between and among these indicators.


Another important contribution on SDG16 was the Data Initiative and the CIVICUS Monitor project. The first one is a collective effort by a consortium of organisations seeking to support the open tracking of the global commitments made by more than 194 countries on peace, justice, and strong institutions. The CIVICUS Monitor is an exciting project working with an influential network of organisations at a different levels (local, national, regional and international), and reflects the spectrum of civil society, at the moment of the discussion we all were seeing the situation of our own countries.


IFLA representative preparing to speak at main session at the UN HLPF

IFLA Preparing to Speak at Main Session

One of the main sessions of this day was the Science-policy interface and emerging issues in which several countries mentioned the need for mechanisms to enhance the digital skills of their citizens. Several points were highlighted by national représentatives. Focusing on the need to mobilize national research systems, it was pointed out that policy had to draw on science, technology and innovations in order to implement the SDGs successfully. Politics may guide and encourage science. In launching the process, interactions at the local level have to be privileged.


Representatives of Majors Groups recalled the necessity to pay attention to particular issues. In this regard, IFLA Manager of Policy and Advocacy Stephen Wyber took the floor  to underline the need for access to information and call on the United Nations to take leadership and adopt an Open Access , as UNESCO, WIPO and WHO have already done.



Even though access to information was discussed on many occasions, none of the speakers mentioned partnering up with libraries in pursuit of meaningful access to information. Let’s ask tomorrow, shall we? To be continued!


Bonus takeaways:

UNFCU foundation

Coops for 2030

Researcher Beware: Being Constructive About Open Science

A recent infographic about text and data mining used the image of, well, mining to illustrate some of the key statistics about its use today. While not so many researchers in Europe are making use of it for now, there’s a broad interest in starting, given its strong potential to accelerate innovation and new insights.

This chimes with an argument long promoted by the library sector – that we need a clear and simple copyright exception, in order to ensure that there are no legal barriers to mining something you already own or to which you have legal access.

However, the infographic does not just focus on statistics. Right at the bottom of this mine, there is some toxic waste, and talk of challenges and risks. This, combined with the mining metaphor as a whole (as a contact in Brussels has pointed out), gives the impression that TDM – arguably one of the most exciting opportunities for scientific progress, is somehow dark, dirty, and not something you would want to get involved in.

Subsequently, we have seen the rise of the Coalition for Responsible Sharing, a coalition of publishers working to cut back on the sharing of the wrong versions of academic articles through a popular platform among researchers, ResearchGate.

Setting aside questions about the risks posed to other, non-commercial sites where articles are posted and shared – a particularly relevant issue in Europe right now – the name chosen for this group is perhaps telling.

That it should be considered ‘irresponsible’ for authors to share the wrong version of their work, rather than just a mistake, again takes the step of saying that a key driver of future scientific progress – collaboration and exchange between peers – is again something risky and uncertain. That words – responsible sharing – which are more redolent of a public health campaign than of science are used is telling.

Sharing, and mining, are both highly promising avenues for the future development of science, as well as areas where libraries are actively supporting progress (while of course respecting copyright). Rather than seeking to create doubt, fear or scepticism, all should be joining together to ensure the most rapid possible progress.

Everyone Can Develop, But Not Without Access to Information

Development and Access to InformationTen years ago, Oxfam launched a successful campaign based on the proverb: ‘Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime’.

The idea is an easy one to understand – sustainable solutions to people’s problems come not from handouts, but from teaching them how to become economically independent. And it is applicable everywhere, not just in developing countries.

For libraries, there is a third step. Give someone access to information, and they can build new skills, stronger communities and better lives. They can not only survive, but thrive. The Development and Access to Information (DA2I) report, to be launched at the High Level Political Forum, shows how.

Access is more than formal education

The world is changing for everyone. To adapt, we need to be able to take the right decisions, at all points in our life. Even in the most developed countries, the process of acquiring, processing and applying information cannot stop with the end of formal education. And elsewhere, many people have had only limited schooling, if any at all.

Access to information, from the results of cutting edge medical research to basic hygiene tips, from the latest crop prices to data about traffic congestion, is vital. And it needs to be delivered in a way that allows everyone to benefit – women and men, poor and rich, rural and urban.

Access is more than computers and cables

It is undeniable that the Internet has created unprecedented opportunities to discover, create and share information. Never have we been able to find so many facts and opinions so quickly, collaborate across borders so easily, or apply such powerful tools to make new discoveries.

Getting online requires networks and hardware, as well as low-cost or free options, such as public access points, for those who have limited resources. A mixture of investment, innovative tools and business models, and the right regulation will be essential.

Without relevant content in a language the user understands, and without the skills and attitudes necessary to feel confident, the Internet cannot realise its potential. At its best, the Internet should not only allow users to consume, but to produce the information that will help others in their communities learn and grow as well.

Not just access. Meaningful, inclusive access

As an essential ingredient of development, we need better to understand the degree to which people around the world have the possibility to access information. We need also to understand what it takes to make this access useful.

The Development and Access to Information (DA2I) Report, to be launched by IFLA and TASCHA on 17 July 2017, marks the starting point of a major new effort to achieve this. By setting out a set of baseline indicators, it underlines the challenges we face today, and provides a benchmark allowing readers to monitor progress in future.

Addressing four of the focus SDGs of this year’s HLPF, the DA2I report also illustrates how meaningful access to information delivers results in the fields of agriculture, health, gender equality and innovation.

Furthermore, it underlines the importance of forming partnerships between actors to deliver access to information – national and local governments, business, practitioners, researchers.

Libraries are central to such partnerships. They do not just offer access to information, but they make it meaningful and inclusive. From enabling international research collaborations, to delivering the skills, support and safe environment vulnerable groups at a local level need, libraries help citizens exercise their right to development and improve their lives.


Development and Access to Information (DA2I) is the first of a series of annual reports that will monitor the progress countries are making towards fulfilling their commitment to promote meaningful access to information as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Produced by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), in partnership with the Technology and Social Change Group at the University of Washington, it underlines the invaluable contribution that information access, particularly through libraries, makes to promoting more socially and economically inclusive societies. The report will be launched on 17 July, in the margins of the High Level Political Forum.


You can learn more about the DA2I report on the dedicated website (, as well as register to receive a notification when the report has been launched and it is ready for download!

Learn more about the work of IFLA in Libraries, Development and the United Nations 2030 Agenda:

The European Union votes on the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty

The plenary of the European Parliament approved today the Directive and the Regulation that implement the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for people who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. Member States will have a period of 12 after entry into force of the Directive to transpose the text into national law, with the regulation being directly applicable from the date of transposition of the Directive.

Europe’s ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty will be fulfilled after the deposit of the instrument at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

We strongly welcome this significant step towards the implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty in Europe. This will allow cross-border exchange of books and other written material in accessible formats for blind persons, visually-impaired persons and other print disabled persons. Although IFLA considers most of the provisions adopted as positive, there is strong concern about the possibility for Member States to allow “compensation” schemes for the making and sharing of accessible format copies.

IFLA already shared this worry after an agreement was reached in trilogue negotiations in 19 May 2017. In a joint statement  with the European Bureau of Library Information and Documentation Associations (EBLIDA), IFLA underlines that a provision allowing “compensation” schemes is a major mistake which will drain resources away from those who support people with print disabilities.

The word “compensation” implies that a harm is done to rightsholders by making accessible format copies. However, it is unclear how this would be the case. As IFLA and EBLIDA indicate in the statement, “it was the publishing industry’s persistent failure to provide books in accessible formats to print disabled people at the same price and the same time as to everyone else that made the Treaty necessary in the first place. Such schemes will reduce the ability of libraries and charities to serve print disabled people, despite the conditions in place. In addition to the costs of creating and storing a variety of accessible format publications so that visually impaired people can for the first time read all publications, such schemes will now force libraries and charities to make additional payments to publishers”.

Furthermore, article 21 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities establishes that “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise the right to (…) receive and impart information and ideas on an equal basis with others (…) including by: a) Providing information intended for the general public to persons with disabilities in accessible formats and technologies appropriate to different kinds of disabilities in a timely manner and without additional cost”. “Compensation” schemes constitute a violation of human rights, as they make it more expensive for libraries to serve users with print disabilities than others. They will make it particularly hard to tackle the global book famine through the sharing of copies with people with print disabilities in developing countries.

Where compensation schemes exist, they draw away resources from providing support and services. Where they are introduced, they will perversely take us further from achieving the objectives of the Marrakesh Treaty than before.

We strongly encourage Member States to transpose the Directive with no further delay and to not to make the mistake of adopting “compensation” schemes.

How much does the EP CULT Committee really care about culture and education?

Libraries in Europe support education, research, lifelong learning activities and access to information. 82% of Europe’s over 65 000 public libraries offer skills training, 24 million European adults benefit from this every year. All places of learning from a school, college to a university will also have libraries where people go to study.

Libraries rely heavily on exceptions to copyright to allow for use of materials for research and teaching, without unnecessary bureaucracy or expense. These exceptions are still determined nationally, with invisible walls at national borders meaning that Europeans cannot benefit from the same possibilities, depending on where they live.

Common rules across Europe will not only give everyone the same possibilities, but will also clear the way for the further development of digital education and culture. As Jüri Ratas, Prime Minister of Estonia, has declared[1], “striving towards a seamless physical and digital connectivity is in the interest of the whole European Union as economic success cannot be separated from the free movement of goods, services, people, capital, and knowledge”.

The result will be a better educated, more creative population, enjoying a more diverse range of culture, better able to create and innovate.

We expect the European Parliament to pursue this objective, in the interest of the many, not the few.  We expect it to think not just about the vested interests of one sector, but rather to remove digital barriers which harm its electors. We expect the members of the Culture and Education Committee (CULT) in particular to make proposals that would promote access to education and culture, and favour strong and diverse education and culture in the digital environment.

As outlined below, it is therefore disappointing to read the position adopted by many of the members of the CULT committee on the Copyright Directive proposal.

We see education as a public interest activity. We believe that it should be aided by allowing teachers to make fair and proportionate use of copyrighted works without unnecessary and chilling bureaucracy or costs. But the compromise amendments proposed in the CULT Committee seem to see institutions such as schools as just another revenue stream to be exploited.

We see libraries as playing a major role in delivering Europe’s goals on lifelong learning. We know that they provide a safe environment – often the only free, public one in a community – and a lifeline for vulnerable groups looking to develop their computer and other job-related skills. But the compromise amendments proposed in the CULT committee, in contradiction with the objectives of Education and Training 2020, will do nothing to make it easier for them to offer such programmes, and so hurt the communities they serve.

We see new techniques such as the mining of Big Data as a means of enhancing progress, and delivering new insights, breakthroughs, and jobs. But the compromise amendments proposed in the CULT Committee seem ready to put digital progress on hold, doing inestimable damage to Europe’s growth potential and ability to compete in international innovation. There appears to be a total lack of join up with real-world economics, where member state governments and the Commission are strongly trying to support start-ups bring new jobs and growth to the economy.

Instead of engaging with the enormous economic potential of Big Data, the compromise amendments proposed in CULT require research data created from analysing in-copyright works to be deleted. This is unethical and “bad science”. The retention of datasets used in scientific research as essential to correcting mistakes, engendering further research as well as combatting malpractice and fraud. The compromise amendments in the CULT Committee however seem ready to sacrifice this in order to calm unproven fears.

We see e-Reading as part of the future of literacy, and therefore the possibility for libraries to lend e-Books without unnecessary restrictions as a common-sense step forward. It will ensure that all of the population, not just the better off, can enjoy Europe’s cultural outputs. But the compromise amendments in the CULT committee seem to see e-Lending as a threat.  Libraries have leant books for generations, and co-existed alongside as well as created entire academic book markets.  Despite well over a century of public libraries lending, the compromise amendments betray a wish that public libraries do not continue this activity into the digital future.

Both commercial and not-for-profit institutions are fundamental in producing and sharing information, and their work should be equally supported. However, amendments adopted within the CULT committee seem to be in favour of the interest of a few. Rather than take the opportunity to improve the Commission’s text, the compromise amendments in the CULT committee seem ready to do the opposite.  Their approach equates to looking at the Copyright Directive proposals through the wrong end of a telescope.

Education and culture are quintessential, broad public interest activities. In adopting these compromise amendments, CULT will have construed them narrowly as being best supported and nurtured by promoting the narrow interests of industry.

Access to knowledge, education and culture needs to be nurtured, not restricted.  It is not too late to put the telescope back the right way around. Libraries and Cultural Heritage Institutions are ready to help.

[1] Declaration of 13 February 2017: “Next goal of EU should be free movement of data”,