Making it a Decade of Delivery: Libraries Building the Capacity for Change

2020 is when the ten-year countdown to the deadline for achieving the SDGs begins. As has been highlighted in a number of reports – not least the Global Sustainable Development Report in September – not enough is yet being done.

Seeing this, the United Nations has agreed that the focus of the 2020 High Level Political Forum – and so by implication, the regional sustainable development fora and other thematic meetings that help prepare it – should be ‘accelerated action and transformative pathways: realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development’.

In effect, this fires the starting pistol on the ‘Decade of Delivery’ – a coordinated global effort to intensify the push toward achieving the SDGs. Libraries can and should be part of this, at all levels. Clearly ‘Decade of Delivery’ is an attractive term, and will likely be well-used this year in official documents and speeches.

Crucially, it implies something however – that we need to do things differently in the 2020s to the 2010s, or before. Much has been achieved, but as the Global Sustainable Development Report underlines, we are not yet on track. There need to be changes, not only in what we do, but also how we do it.

Two key elements of this will be making better use of development accelerators, and building the capacity for change – this blog discusses how libraries contribute to both.

 

Development Accelerators

There is a need – as the theme of the High-Level Political Forum suggests – to accelerate efforts. The United Nations Development Programme has already done extensive work on the idea of development accelerators – actions and interventions that can unlock or advance progress in a number of areas.

As IFLA’s blog on the subject underlines, providing access to information through libraries is a great example of just such an accelerator. Properly supported, welcoming libraries can be gateways to lifelong learning, supporters of literacy, portals to information about health or employment, and centres for civic participation.

A major advantage of libraries, too, is that in many places, they already exist, reducing the cost of any new scheme. There are exciting efforts in countries like Costa Rica, where libraries are at the heart of an effort to bring more people online, giving them the possibility to find work, communicate with friends and family, and access e-Government services.

Meanwhile in Ireland, a recent announcement has seen collaboration between the ministry of local government and the ministry of health to make use of the potential of libraries to support public health more effectively.

These efforts show what can be done when governments make full use of libraries.

 

Building the Capacity for Change

The possibility to see these opportunities – not just involving libraries, but all of the institutions and tools available to governments – also implies a change in the way that decisions are prepared and taken.

Governments cannot necessarily count on having more money, more natural resources, or more people in order to achieve the goals. Information and knowledge – which cannot be exhausted – will therefore need to be at the heart of this.

The capacity of governments to use this is therefore crucial. This is where libraries, and the skills of library and information workers, come in to play.

Organising the knowledge that governments already hold, and ensuring that they are exposed to new ideas and new research, promises greater effectiveness – an objective set out in Sustainable Development Goal 16.

In parallel, the work of parliamentary libraries in supporting members of parliament to carry out their role in scrutinising laws and making their own proposals contributes to this same goal, offering a second means of making sure that decisions are based on the widest information base possible.

 

The Decade of Delivery is not just a good title, but also a challenge to governments and others both to identify and make use of development accelerators, and to develop their own capacity. Libraries of all types can play a central role in delivering both.

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