A Look Back at the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development

The end of a year is a time for reflection and stock-taking, but also a moment to look ahead at what can be built on the year’s achievements.

As 2021 was the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, IFLA engaged with our global network to explore the role of libraries in supporting creativity, enabling the protection and promotion of diverse cultural expressions, and upholding cultural rights for all.

This has laid the groundwork for more engagement with culture, creativity, and sustainable development in the future. So let’s take a moment to reflect on what has been done and have a look at what is coming up.

Launching the Conversation

Libraries are a key resource for fostering equitable participation in culture on the local, national, and international scale. Exploring this topic during 2021 was an opportunity to strengthen library advocacy for cultural rights and sustainable development.

Read more on how libraries support cultural participation here: Libraries opening the door to cultural participation in the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development [February 2021].

In particular, IFLA got involved in library advocacy on this topic through engaging with the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005 Convention). To start, we created a guide to help our members learn more about this convention: Get Into the 2005 Convention.

Building on this, we shared tips for actions that our members can take to engage with UNESCO on this topic: Highlighting the Role of Libraries in Protection and Promotion of Diverse Cultural Expressions [March 2021].

Bringing a Library Voice to the Debate

IFLA participated as an observer in the 14th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, and provided ideas for how libraries can take steps informed by UNESCO’s priorities: Mobilising Libraries for Cultural Diversity: Next-Steps Informed by the UNESCO 2005 Convention [February 2021].

IFLA also brought libraries to the table for the Third Civil Society Forum of the 2005 Convention in May, moderating a session on culture and sustainable development.

We also worked with partners and within networks to bring a library voice to conversations focused on the importance of the cultural and creative industries in sustainable development, including through the session “Partnering through Culture, Heritage and Art for Resilient and Inclusive Recovery”, the Culture 2030 Goal Side Event at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum [July 2021], and the fourth UCLG Culture Summit, organised by United Cities and Local Government [September 2021].

Highlighting Examples from the Global Library Field

Library advocacy is not possible without input from library and information professionals sharing innovative projects, bold outreach strategies and all-around excellent ideas.

IFLA posted several calls for input over 2021 to hear how our global membership is supporting creativity and diverse cultural expressions in their libraries.

On World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, we reflected on how libraries contribute to sustainable development by enabling culture to be accessed, explored and shared – including in the virtual space: Learning, Encountering, and Exploring: Libraries Making Space for Cultural Diversity [May 2021].

IFLA then engaged with several of our Professional Units and carried out desktop research to find concrete examples of how libraries foster environments where diverse cultural expressions are encouraged, valued, shared, and protected.

The result is a wide array of examples of libraries in action to support creativity, which can be found here: Learning, Making, Doing: Libraries as Incubators of Creativity and the Creative Economy [June 2021].

Creativity and Cultural Rights at WLIC 2021

Creativity came to WLIC with the dedicated session: Libraries as Incubators of Creativity. This session invited panellists to introduce projects in which their library engages with cultural actors and creators.

Examples included artist-in-residence programmes in both university and national library contexts, makerspaces for creative entrepreneurs, and support for first-time authors. This event was submitted to the UN for inclusion on the official database, as well as the final report to the UN General Assembly, on events celebrating the International Year.

For more: Libraries as Incubators of Creativity: Ideas Generator.

Another WLIC 2021 Session exploring this topic was Music in the Library World, organised by the New Professionals Special Interest Group, in cooperation with the Audiovisual and Multimedia Section (AVMS) and the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres (IAML).

Finally, for an inspirational introduction to the role of libraries are key actors in guaranteeing the right of everyone to participate in cultural life, be sure to revisit the Libraries Inspire Keynote: Transcript of the Session with Professor Karima Bennoune, immediate past UN Special Rapporteur for Cultural Rights.

Looking Ahead

Throughout 2021, IFLA has worked to raise awareness of the role of libraries in supporting creativity and participation in cultural life. We have engaged with valued partners, participated in multisectoral networks, and put the spotlight on contributions from libraries around the world.

This has built a strong foundation for continued engagement in library advocacy for culture’s role in sustainable development.

IFLA will continue working with UNESCO, especially through the 2005 Convention, to ensure that the contribution of libraries in preserving and promoting diverse cultural expressions is recognised. To start, we will participate in the Fifteenth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions in February 2022.

Another key event coming up in September 2022 is the UNESCO World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development – Mondiacult 2022. IFLA will be following the preparations for this Conference closely and will keep you informed of developments and opportunities to get involved in the conversation.

As the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development year comes to a close, we thank all those who have engaged with us in exploring this topic. Libraries have a critical role to play in supporting creativity, cultural rights, and sustainable development, and IFLA looks forward to continuing to work with you to bring a library voice to the global conversation.

Get in touch: claire.mcguire@ifla.org

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