Highlighting the Role of Libraries in Protection and Promotion of Diverse Cultural Expressions

2021 is the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, and IFLA has been helping libraries identify where they fit in – and how they can advocate for their role.

The UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions is an international framework in which Member States commit to promoting conditions that will allow creativity and the creative economy to thrive. You can learn more about this Convention with IFLA’s Get Into the 2005 Convention Guide.

We have examined some of the broader ways in which libraries open the door to cultural participation in a recent article. Key values upheld by libraries which allow cultural participation and protection include providing access to information, education, and lifelong learning opportunities, promoting digital, media and information literacy skills, and carrying out cultural heritage preservation.

Through our advocacy, which highlights how libraries connect their communities to all forms of cultural creation and participation, we can help build awareness of the important role of libraries in society. To do this effectively, there are four useful steps you can take:

  1. Set an advocacy goal
  2. Identify your audience
  3. Clarify your advocacy message and ask
  4. Provide examples that support your advocacy message

This article will walk you through these steps and suggest actions that you can take to advocate for the role of libraries role in cultural participation. You will be strongest working with your association if this exists, but of course contributions from individual libraries will add to this.

Step 1: Defining your Goal: Including Libraries in National Reporting

From the beginning, it is important to have an objective for your advocacy in mind. In this case, you will want to ensure that libraries and examples of relevant library programmes are included in your country’s next Period Report to the 2005 Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

This document is a result of the fact that State Parties to the 2005 Convention are required to submit a report every four years. These reports detail the policies and measures they have put in place, as well as any challenges they have encountered.

These reports are an important way for civil society and other stakeholders to engage with government officials and demonstrate progress being made towards implementing the Convention. Find out more.

Periodic Reports in 2021 and 2022

The following countries will be preparing Period Reports in the next two years. Note that the 2021 deadline for State Parties to submit their report to UNESCO is 30 June.

2021: Afghanistan, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Comoros, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guyana, Iraq, Morocco, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Qatar, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Serbia, Turkey, Venezuela

2022: Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Czechia (Czech Republic), Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Lesotho, Malawi, Republic of Korea, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine

Step 2: Identify your Target Audience: National Points of Contact

A next step in effective advocacy is to identity your audience – in particular who will take the critical decisions, and who might influence them.

In order to achieve the goal of including libraries in your country’s next periodic report, your main audience would be your country’s National Point of Contact for the 2005 Convention.

National Points of Contact

State Parties to the 2005 Convention have each designated a point of contact responsible for information-sharing with relevant Ministries and public agencies. These contact points gather information from both governmental and non-governmental sources and assist in the drafting of the quadrennial periodic reports.

Find your National Contact Point here.

You may also want to understand who can help you in convincing the national point of contact. These may be decision- and policymakers at the local or national level, institutions, civil society organisations, inter-governmental organisations, or other stakeholders. For example, are there specific libraries which could help, cultural associations which make strong use of libraries, or key journalists or thinkers?

 

Step 3: Clarify your Message and Ask: the Recognition of Libraries

With a clear goal and understanding of your target, you can then work out how to clearly state why your audience should consider libraries as important to their work (that is your message). This will be at the heart of your advocacy, in meetings, preparing blogs or articles, on social media and beyond.

You should also define clearly what you would like them to do, in order to make things simple for the decision-maker(s) (that is your ask).

You will want to define and draft these in a way (and a language) that is appropriate for your setting, but you can use the below as a starting point.

Message:

Libraries and their staff have a key role in preserving and providing the widest possible access to culture. They can foster an environment where diverse cultural expressions are encouraged, valued, shared, and protected – an environment in which a strong creative economy can thrive. Core values that the Convention upholds are also values that libraries champion and enable. These include freedom of information and expression, participatory democratic societies, linguistic diversity, the fundamental role of education, and recognition of the importance of the digital environment in education, creating and providing access to culture.

Ask:

That in preparation of the upcoming Periodic Report, the National Point of Contact considers including examples from your country’s libraries which demonstrate how libraries have had a role in implementing the 2005 Convention and addressing challenges.

 

Step 4: Provide Examples of Libraries Contributing to the Convention’s Goals

Backing up your message with a selection of examples from your experience and that of other libraries adds power to your advocacy.

In this case, it would be a good idea to align your library’s examples with the goals of the 2005 Convention. Finding examples that align with the four goals set out in the Convention can help make a strong case to your National Contact Point for their inclusion in the Report.  The reporting period is four years, so examples can come from within that time frame.

Goal 1: Support sustainable systems of governance for culture

This might include examples of programmes, initiatives, or services that:

  • Promote information and awareness-raising activities for the culture and creative sector
  • Build capacity and/or provide training for artists and cultural professionals
  • Give support to medium, small, or micro-enterprise creative industries, such as promoting local authors and publishers, making space for art marketplaces or hosting writers or artists in residence
  • Contribute to participatory decision-making regarding cultural policy, such as making spaces for dialogue with government authorities (i.e. meetings, working groups).
  • Support digital literacy and promotion of creativity and cultural content in the digital environmental (skills and competences, creative spaces, innovation, research and development, etc.)

Goal 2: Achieve a balanced flow of cultural goods and services and increase the mobility of artists and cultural professionals

This might include examples of programmes, initiatives, or services that:

  • Connect potential beneficiaries of mobility funds to related information resources or training services
  • Participate in writing and other arts residencies or cultural events like festivals that host travelling artists or cultural professionals – notably from developing countries
  • Celebrate potentially little-known works by a diverse range of writers and other creators

 

Goal 3: Integrate culture in sustainable development frameworks

This might include examples of programmes, initiatives, or services that:

  • Promote the inclusion of culture in sustainable development plans and strategies
  • Support or facilitate cultural programmes at the regional, urban and/or rural levels, especially community-based initiatives
  • Help to ensure the right to participation in cultural life and access to culture, especially addressing the needs of disadvantaged or vulnerable groups.

 

Goal 4: Promote human rights and fundamental freedoms

This might include examples of programmes, initiatives, or services that:

  • Raise awareness of the right to participate freely in cultural life
  • Support women’s full participation in cultural life
  • Collect and manage data related to gender equality in the cultural and creative sectors
  • Advocate for writers and other artists and take a stand against limits to artistic freedom of expression

Next Steps

When you are prepared with your advocacy message, ask, and examples – it is time to reach out to the contact person you have identified. You could use the below message as a template:

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am contacting you from [LIBRARY ASSOCIATION/LIBRARY], located in [CITY]. I have noted that our country is a State Party to the 2005 Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, and that you are due to submit a periodic report in [YEAR].

In order to best demonstrate the work within [COUNTRY] to protect and promote diverse cultural expressions, it would be beneficial to include the work that libraries have done in this area over the past four years.

Libraries and their staff have a key role in preserving and providing the widest possible access to culture. They can foster an environment where diverse cultural expressions are encouraged, valued, shared, and protected – an environment in which a strong creative economy can thrive. Core values that the Convention upholds are also values that libraries champion and enable. These include freedom of information and expression, participatory democratic societies, linguistic diversity, the fundamental role of education, and recognition of the importance of the digital environment in education, creating and providing access to culture.

Some examples from our country that impact on the goals of the 2005 Convention include:

[Goal number: List examples, be brief but specific. Provide links to more information if possible]

On behalf of [LIBRARY ASSOCIATION/LIBRARY], I hope that you will consider including these examples, as they contribute to the implementation of the 2005 Convention and showcase the dedication of the nation’s libraries to this work. I remain available to answer questions or provide additional information.

We can help!

Do not hesitate to reach out to IFLA for support in your advocacy. If you have examples in mind but would like further input or require addition support in crafting your advocacy approach – be in touch. We are happy to help.

Start by emailing: Claire.mcguire@ifla.org

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