Key Anniversaries in 2020

Welcome to 2020!

It’s a year of some significant anniversaries – for the world as a whole, and for the library field in particular.

These are not just an opportunity to celebrate important moments and achievements of the past, but are often an occasion to think and plan ahead.

Looking back at the last 10, 50 or even 100 years can be a trigger to think about what will happen in the next 10, 50 or 100 – and ideally influence it for the better.

Here are just a few:

75 Years of the United Nations: with the end of the Second World War, governments looked to find an effective way to prevent future conflicts. The creation the United Nations aimed to protect security and peace, and promote development. In 2020, there will be major celebrations around this.

The same year saw the emergence of other United Nations bodies, not least UNESCO, whose preparatory commission met from November 1945. With its focus on promoting international cooperation and action on education, science and culture, it is perhaps the single most relevant intergovernmental organisation for libraries.

Over many years, UNESCO indeed actively supported IFLA’s development, and helped prepare and promote key standards and tools for libraries, not least the IFLA-UNESCO Public Library Manifesto whose anniversary we celebrated last year.

Both the UN and UNESCO’s anniversaries offer an opportunity to reflect on the value of working multilaterally – globally, as a group – rather than on our own, and on how we can do this better. The UN system offers great opportunities for library engagement, as well as for our own work.

Of course, it is also the centenary of the League of Nations, which was formally incorporated in 1920. This also had the goal of preventing war and supporting development, but was unable to engage all countries, or stop the return of war. It is a reminder of the need to take care of peace.

 

45 Years of the Helsinki Accords: perhaps a less well-known anniversary, in 1975, representatives of the Soviet Union and Western countries met in Helsinki in order to sign a new agreement. While not quite a Treaty, it was initially seen as a helpful step for the USSR given its rejection of violence as a means of changing borders.

However, in time, it was rather the recognition of the importance of fundamental rights that arguably had the greatest effect, providing campaigners for democracy and freedom of access to information and expression with a key advocacy tool.

While the Accords are clearly focused on Northern Hemisphere issues, they are a strong example of human rights being given the attention they deserve, and the impact this can have on politics.

 

There will also be the opportunity to celebrate two further key moments in the promotion of equality and human rights. It was 30 years ago that Nelson Mandela was released from prison – a key step in the process of dismantling apartheid in South Africa.

And 25 years ago, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action were launched. At a huge conference in the Chinese capital, leaders from around the world promised to do more to promote gender equality.

Clearly equality has yet to be achieved, in all of its dimensions. Yet looking back can – hopefully – provide an opportunity to look forwards with new energy.

 

After last year’s celebrations of the Public Library Manifesto, 2020 is not without anniversaries for IFLA itself. It will be 20 years since our position on copyright in the digital environment.

These two statements came at the time of landmark copyright legislation in the US and European Union, which duly influenced that implemented elsewhere. Much has happened since then, with many questions about the effectiveness of the principles enforced then.

It is also 45 years since IFLA’s Preservation and Conservation Section was launched as an ad hoc group. Since then, our understanding of the techniques and choices involved in effective preservation has grown hugely. So too – of course – have the challenges, meaning that this work is as important as ever.

Happy 2020!

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