Tag Archives: Culture

10 Takeaways from the UN General Assembly’s Resolution on Culture and Sustainable Development

On 19 December, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution looking at the relationship between culture and sustainable development. Such resolutions are prepared every two years, but nonetheless this represents a useful high-level reference point for work on the place of culture in delivering the 2030 Agenda.

In the first of two blogs (see the second here), we take a look at eight key aspects of this text that are helpful for libraries, and all those looking to ensure a stronger recognition of culture in development agendas, as a means of ensuring better support and integration into policymaking. In the second, we will look back at how the UN’s language around culture and sustainable development has evolved over time.

1) Culture is recognised both as an enabler of other goals, and as having intrinsic value: there is a legitimate discussion both about the responsibility of the cultural sector to contribute to wider development goals, while not instrumentalising it to achieve other goals (something that could be harmful for artistic freedoms). The Resolution therefore underlines these two aspects – that culture is an enabler and driver, but is also a value in itself.

2) There is still work to be done about how we define culture: linked to the first point, the Resolution doesn’t attempt to offer clarification about the ‘boundaries’ of culture, and in particular the relationship between the traditional cultural sector (artists and other creators and institutions, including libraries) and wider cultural concerns (traditions, practices and beliefs). While we would argue that the two are linked – writers and artists do have a role in shaping wider culture – it would help if this were made clearer.

3) Realising the potential of culture to support sustainable development matters for success elsewhere: the Resolution contains a range of reference to work in other areas – not least environment and equality – as well as explicit references to how culture impacts on biodiversity, education and consumption patterns. This underlines the argument that we cannot achieve our goals in these other areas without engaging and action on culture.

4) There are strong precedents for recognising the place of culture in development: the Resolution includes a long list of United Nations texts that underline the importance of culture in the context of wider development strategies. This makes it helpfully clear that there is precedent for taking culture seriously, and so a basis for asking for a stronger place for culture in future.

5) We need to continue to build the evidence framework: the Resolution notes the different targets in the current 2030 Agenda that reference culture, and the need not only to deliver on these, but to improve measurement. It is certainly the case that there is always need for more evidence, not just in order to strengthen the case for the role of culture, but also to help those in the culture sector maximise their positive impacts on wider development outcomes. A particular role is given to UNESCO in this space.

6) A clear call to give consideration to the rule of culture in 2030 Agenda implementation: while the text is not new, it is welcome that Member States decide to ‘give consideration, as appropriate, to the contribution of culture to sustainable development in the follow-up and review framework of the 2030 Agenda’, as well as recognising the potential to work through Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) to achieve this. The Culture2030Goal campaign report underlines this potential, and our VNR Culture Checklist offers a practical tool for achieving this.

 7) The particular role of local and regional governments: in referring to the need to give consideration to the role of culture, the Resolution highlights in particular how this can help achieve SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities.  This is perhaps not a surprise, given the strong place of culture in the report on SDG11 in 2023 produced by UN Habitat, but also makes sense given that the role and potential of culture is perhaps clearest at the local level. Local and regional governments have certainly been leaders in working with and mobilising culture for development.

8) Specific calls on Member States: the Resolution makes a number of requests to governments, including to promote cultural diversity, to mainstream culture into policy making, to protect cultural rights (especially for women), to support intercultural dialogue, to build capacity in the sector, to preserve local knowledge, to safeguard institutions and collection, to find ways of funding culture, and to explore issues of repatriation and access.

9) Relevance to the Culture2030Goal campaign zero draft: linked to the previous point, it is worth noting that all of the sub-themes highlighted in the Culture2030Goal campaign’s zero draft of a culture goal also feature in the Resolution, ranging from specific support to creators, cultural rights, strengthening institutions, and integrating culture into wider policy-making. This is a welcome indication of the relevance of the suggested targets.

10) A call to integrate culture into the work of UN country teams: even outside of countries undertaking Voluntary National Reviews next year, the Resolution makes clear that there is scope for mobilisation everywhere where the UN is active. It calls for UN country teams to ‘further integrate and mainstream culture into their programming exercises, in particular United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks’. This is a useful reference for library associations and other organisations and institutions involved in Culture2030Goal work to reach out, and explore how to deliver, already, on the potential of culture to support development through better integration into wider development activities.

Too brief a brief? A comprehensive approach to a more effective multilateral system needs a stronger focus on culture

The Summit of the Future, planned for 2024, looks set to be a key moment not just in the evolution of the United Nations’ work on its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but also in what comes next.

It will bring together many of the key workstreams launched in the context of Our Common Agenda, itself a response to the declaration of the UN’s Member States for the organisation’s 75th anniversary. A common thread throughout this the focus on how to enhance the capacity of the UN and wider multilateral system to deliver, correcting some of the weaknesses and blind spots of current structures and agendas.

The Culture2030Goal campaign is built around the understanding that for the sustainable development agenda to realise its goals, it needs to give a stronger and deeper role to culture. As underlined in our statement on the SDG Summit – due in September this year – we cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of 2015, leaving culture out of comprehensive policy agendas. 

While our statement is focused on what is coming up later this year, the same logic applies – perhaps even more intensively – to the Summit of the Future. As a campaign, we cannot conceive of an effort to boost the UN’s ability to achieve its goals that doesn’t include an effort to include culture. 

So how is it going so far? This blog explores the eight Policy Briefs which have already been published by the UN Secretary General as part of the process of preparing for the Summit of the Future. In each case, there’s a short description of the brief, and then an assessment of whether it contributes to a stronger consideration of culture in the UN’s action. 

Beyond GDP (link)

This paper looks to advance work to complement Gross Domestic Product with other indicators that provide a fuller, and more forward-looking idea of where we stand, and where we are going. It proposes to launch work to identify a basket of 10-20 indicators, as well as to boost statistical capacity.

What does it say about culture?: unfortunately, nothing. Despite the well-acknowledged positive impact of culture on wellbeing as well as a wide variety of other goals, there is no mention of it in this paper, risking meaning that future policy-decisions will be made based on highly incomplete data.

Future Generations (link)

This paper aims to advance efforts to integrate considerations about the future more firmly into decision-making. It proposes doing this through more investment in foresight, an envoy or the future, and a Forum to pool expertise and ideas. 

What does it say about culture?: the brief provides welcome recognition that the practice of integrating the interests of future generations is a long-standing practice in the cultural field, and that these have inspired many efforts to do so today. It also notes that work to preserve heritage also, by definition, is about safeguarding the possibility for future generations to access it. The brief could be improved by a more explicit reference to the need to reflect cultural considerations in future efforts in this space, in particular through any forum on foresight work.  

Youth engagement (link)

This brief focuses on the desire to ensure a more consistent and meaningful level of engagement of young people in processes across the United Nations, both as a means of ensuring better decision-making, but also to build a sense of involvement and confidence. 

What does it say about culture?: very little unfortunately. While the brief mentions the need to adapt institutional culture, there is little thought about what role the cultural field could play in developing new forms of engagement, or indeed in building wider cultures of engagement. 

Global Digital Compact (link)

This brief refers to the drive to bring together the various different processes underway around the governance of the internet and the wider digital world, based on a number of shared principles. There is a strong focus on tackling divides, both at the level of individuals, and that of governments when it comes to the ability to regulate the digital world. 

What does it say about culture?: there is a welcome focus on the need to connect cultural institutions to the internet and enable them to engage fully online. More broadly, the brief also recognises the importance of cultures and behaviours in a digital world that will need to evolve. Nonetheless, the cultural sector remains viewed simply as a provider of content. 

Information Integrity (link)

This policy brief builds on parallel concerns about misinformation, disinformation and hate speech spread by private and governmental actors. Complementing work going on in parallel at UNESCO, it suggests a code of practice on information for governments and private actors, aimed both at tackling lies and building skills and resilience

What does it say about culture?: once again, culture tends to be seen in a relatively passive light, with it noted that digital platforms have transformed cultural interactions. There certainly is reflection on the role of behaviours and attitudes among internet users, but the response is mainly to regulate and provide training, rather than to mobilise cultural actors to build possibilities to deepen understanding. 

Outer Space (link)

With major increases in numbers of satellites launched, more private sector engagement and new ambitions to visit deep space, this policy brief sets out a way of ensuring that there are the right governance mechanisms in place. 

What does it say about culture?Again, very little, although it does underline the potential for ambitious programmes to trigger the imagination and get other people thinking about the future. There is also a reference to the chance, some of the references to the need to manage shared resources effectively could build on lessons about traditional cultural approaches to this. 

Financial Architecture (link)

At the heart of this policy brief is the sense that responses to financial crises are all too often inadequate, especially for poorer countries, while the resources available to support development are too scarce. It calls for reforms within financial institutions, better coordination, and a big increase in development spending.

What does it say about culture?: there are no references to culture in here, although it may be possible to interpret calls to give a greater weight to achieving the SDGs and wider sustainability in funding by the IMG and development banks as potentially, in future, allowing for greater investment in culture. 

Emergency Platform (link)

This policy brief looks to learn the lessons from the most recent crises – in particular the pandemic and the cost of living crisis – and proposes a set of protocols that could be activated the next time the world faces a complex crisis. Through this, it should be possible to ensure stronger coordination, and more of a focus on the needs of the most vulnerable.

What does it say about culture?: there is no reference to culture in the paper, despite the key role it  can play both in ensuring resilience upstream of crises and enabling recovery subsequently. Of course, the brief is focused on governance, but this too needs to be based on better information and insights (something that culture can offer), as well as the mobilisation of relevant stakeholders, which should of course include the culture sector. 

Transforming Education (link)

This brief follows on from the 2022 Transforming Education Summit, and calls both for a re-emphasis on the importance of education and lifelong learning as a global public good, and efforts to address the parallel crises of equity (everyone should be able to benefit from education), relevance (people need to learn how to cope with a changing world), and the financing of education.

What does it say about culture?: references are again limited, although there is recognition both of the role of education in addressing more harmful cultural beliefs and practices, and in the value of creative education. The paper also notes the value of ensuring that education adapts to the needs of communities. However, in its thin references to cultural education, and none at all to the need to work with and through culture to ensure effectiveness, there is much that could be improved.

A New Agenda for Peace (link)

This brief addresses the concern that just as polarisation and conflict appear to be on the rise again, the infrastructures in place for addressing them are weakened. The brief calls for a reaffirmation of the values of trust, solidarity and universality, and promotes a more holistic, preventative approach to peace-building, as well as referring to the value of potential UN reform.

What does it say about culture?: sadly, very little at all. There is recognition that conflict within societies can easily be reflected in conflicts between countries, as well as the harmful effects of a lack of understanding or sense of togetherness between peoples. It talks also about ‘cultures’ of peace, but again, does not go into enough depth on questions of peace-building and prevention and how cultural initiatives can help in this respect. A particular concern is that there is no reference to the role of protecting heritage and ensuring its survival as a basis for recovery.

UN 2.0 (link)

This brief looks at the changes the Secretary General believes are necessary in the United Nations itself in order to be a more impactful and sustainable organisation. It sets out a ‘quintet of change’ – actions around data, innovation, digital, foresight and behavioural science, within the context of wider efforts to promote forward thinking and bring about cultural change within the organisation. With a combination of efforts by the UN system and Member States, this should leave the UN better able to achieve its goals, with a plan proposed for 2024-26.

What does it say about culture: a lot in fact – there are more references to culture in this brief than in all of the others put together. The emphasis, however, is on culture understood broadly as a set of attitudes and beliefs which condition the way we work. This is applied both to the UN as a whole (calling for culture change in the organisation) and in policy implementation (where the value of investing in behavioural science is highlighted). However, there is relatively little exploration of how this change can happen, and no reference to culture as the set of cultural institutions and actors, and how their insights and work can help.


Across the briefs, there is certainly space for culture to play a role, and in particular in the final one. However, this approach remains piecemeal, and leaves plenty of gaps, and so is likely to offer an insufficiently strong drive to realise the potential of culture. Based on the MONDIACULT Declaration of 2022, there is both the scope and substance for a policy brief focused on culture, starting the process of correcting the mistakes of 2015. 



Learning, Making, Doing: Libraries as Incubators of Creativity and the Creative Economy

A vital component in realizing cultural rights, including freedom of expression and participation in cultural life, is supporting cultural actors. This includes those working in the creation, production, and distribution of, as well as access to, expressions of culture.

So, with 2021 being the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, IFLA has explored how libraries open the door to cultural participation and make space for cultural diversity.

This includes work to do so by providing access to lifelong learning opportunities and addressing gaps in the ability to participate in culture on digital platforms, as well as fostering environments where diverse cultural expressions are encouraged, valued, shared, and protected.

To prepare this overview, IFLA engaged with several of our Professional Units and carried out desktop research to find concrete examples of how libraries put these values into action. We have found examples ranging from libraries participating in national cultural strategies to carrying out community-level programmes. Some examples help elevate established creators, while others create spaces where new creators can explore and grow.

Let’s take a deeper look at how libraries can act as incubators of creativity and the creative economy in their national contexts.

Libraries as Partners: Contributing to Government Initiatives

Brazil: National Reading and Writing Policy

In 2018, the Brazilian Special Secretariat for Culture established, within the National Reading and Writing Policy, a permanent strategy to promote books, reading, writing, literature, and publicly accessible libraries (Law No. 13,696/2018) [source].  The Brazilian National Library Foundation is engaged as a partner in this strategy.

The Policy’s objectives include promoting access to books and reading, disseminating Brazilian literature, and valuing and encouraging national authors with an emphasis on bibliodiversity.

Initiatives carried out within this framework have helped stimulate the creative economy by supporting national authors through funding and participation in international literacy fairs.

For example, in 2018, a public call for original works in Portuguese on select themes regarding the history of Brazil was circulated. Fifty works were selected for funding, which contributed to promotion and dissemination efforts.

Colombia: Reading Colombia

The National Library of Colombia partnered with the Ministry of Culture, Vice-ministry of Creativity and Orange Economy and the Colombian Book Chamber on the “Reading Colombia” strategy [source].

A key focus of this strategy was to support the distribution of works by national authors in the international market in order to help increase visibility of contemporary Colombian writers.

In 2018, the scheme awarded 12 scholarships to support translation of the work of Colombian authors into six languages​. In 2019, this increased to 50 works of Colombian literature.

Ireland: Decade of Centenaries Programme

The Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023 has been an ongoing programme administered by the Irish Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the most difficult and transformative period of Irish history, 1912-1923.

The National Library of Ireland is partnering with Department and the Decade of Centenaries Programme to appoint a poet in residence to engage with this theme and create original works [source].

This year-long post is supported by a stipend. During this time, the poet will not only create original literary works, but contribute to masterclasses for practitioner-led, experimental or interdisciplinary programmes, participate in workshops to help engage new audiences with the Library’s collections, and work to develop good practice outreach models to connect their creative works with a public audience.

United States of America: Library of Congress National Book Festival

The National Book Festival is hosted annually by the Library of Congress, the national library of the USA. Over past years, more than 100 authors, poets, and illustrators had the opportunity to connect with over 200,000 attendees for book talks, discussions, book signings and other engaging activities.

This has historically been the largest annual literary gathering held in the nation’s capital but in 2021 will reach a much wider audience through a hybrid in-person / online programme.

Content will be available through videos on-demand, author conversations in real time and live question-and-answer sessions, as well as a podcast series, a national television special, and in-person events at the Library.

This Festival will also engage authors from across the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, who are each invited to choose a book to represent their state or territory’s literary heritage. The Library of Congress will amplify these authors by holding conversations to discuss their books and what they mean for each State or Territory.


Libraries as Hosts: Artists in Residence

Jamaica: National Library of Jamaica Poet Laureate Programme

The Poet Laureate selected by the National Library of Jamaica carries out a three-year term, during which time he or she is tasked with stimulating a wider appreciation for Jamaican poetry. During this time, the Poet Laureate also helps encourage public involvement in poetry and spoken word arts, including by involving young people in appreciating and writing poetry. The scheme supports the poet during their term through a grant [source].

Within this programme, the Poet Laureate presents their own creations both locally and abroad, is involved in national events, and carries out participatory programmes to encourage developing poets, such as poetry competitions and school poetry reading tours [source].


United States of America: University of California San Francisco Library Artist in Residence program

This programme, carried out by the University Library, invites artists to promote health humanities through creative use of the historical materials preserved in the Library’s Archives and Special Collections [source].

The current Artist in Residence, Farah Hamaden, is a biomedical illustrator and animator, whose interactive storytelling project, “The City is a Body”, seeks to collect and bring to life San Franciscans’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out more about her project here.


Singapore – The National Library Board Creative Residency

This programme invites creatives from all different artistic disciplines to use the National Library Board’s collections to inspire their own works, and to reimagine them in ways that help engage a wider community with the collection [source].

Creative work produced in this role can take the form of videos, publications, literary works, artworks, musical compositions, or more. The 6-month post is supported by a stipend, and is open to all Singapore-based creative practitioners (individuals or collectives) working in any discipline or form of expression to apply.

Libraries as Enablers: Supporting New Creators

Trinidad and Tobago – NALIS First Time Authors Programme

National Library and Information Systems Authority (NALIS) highlights first-time authors of Trinidad and Tobago nationality or descent through their First Time Authors Programme [source].

Held on World Book and Copyright Day, this programme celebrates the accomplishment of first time authors, encourages new national writers, and raises public awareness of issues relating to intellectual property and copyright.

During the annual ceremony, national first-time authors of all genres are presented with appreciation tokens and their work is promoted online. See a recent example here.

Australia: Yarra Plenty Regional Library Maker Spaces and Maker Month

Yarra Plenty Regional Library (YPRL), a public library service located in Melbourne, Australia, has established Maker Spaces in 6 of their 9 branches. These spaces allow users to create, connect, collaborate, and learn in a fun and supported environment, and specialise in areas of textile and craft, mental health, gardening, writing and publishing, science and technology, and design

In 2020, the library launched a month-long, region-wide Maker Month programme. This went beyond the Maker Spaces, with a focus on entrepreneurs and events to support and empower those starting out in business or making the leap from hobby to “side hustle”.

This addressed an identified gap for support systems aimed at such microbusinesses, with many not knowing where to start in launching their own creative small business. Built on community feedback, the programme offered local makers opportunities to connect and network, get creative, and upskill. It provided tools to learn about business needs – from developing their idea to running and marketing their business.

Although hampered by the outbreak of the pandemic, many programmes were held online. These included topics such as: Using WordPress to make your own webpage, How and why to create digital content for your business, and How to plan for small businesses.

A number of sessions, including Turning Your Passion into Profit and How to Market Your Business Using Social Media continue to run in an online format.

The library is planning a smaller-scale Maker Month for July 2021, with a mix of online and in-person events including 90-day Business Planning and is launching a co-working space which will have an ongoing focus on business support.


This is just a look at different ways libraries can make a difference for creative actors, connecting them with opportunities to create, elevating and promoting their work, and encouraging learning and exploration.

Through their position in the social fabric and their role as champions of access to information and freedom of expression, it is clear that libraries are an essential piece in a thriving creative economy.

Through examples such as these, libraries contribute to the fulfillment of cultural rights and link them to economic opportunity for creative actors – both of which are needed to enable sustainable development.

This list is by no means exhaustive – we welcome additional cases from all types of libraries around the world! Send your stories to: claire.mcguire@ifla.org

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.


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.


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

Library Stat of the Week #50 (Part 1): Where there are stronger, and better used public and community libraries, there tends to be greater participation in artistic and creative activities

In part one of the last of our mini-series on libraries and cultural data – and indeed the last of our regular Library Stat of the Week posts for now – we’re looking at data about libraries and the wider cultural field.

This follows two posts exploring the relationship between libraries and the book sector, measured in terms of the share of household spending on culture going on books across countries for which culture is available.

In this post, we make use of Eurostat data about frequency of participation in artistic activities (in general), and regularity of attendance at cultural events (cinema, live performances, and cultural or heritage institutions such as museums).

Once again, we also draw on data from IFLA’s Library Map of the World, combined with World Bank population data.

Given that Eurostat data only covers Europe, and that Library Map of the World data is not complete for every country, we have limited analysis to those countries for which data is available.

The goal is to explore what relationships exist between the existence and use of libraries and broader cultural participation. The thesis is that libraries can act as a gateway to culture, providing opportunities that are both local, and free, for people to discover creativity, both in others and in themselves.

The first part of this post looks at data around participation in artistic activities, compared to different metrics of availability of libraries (measured by the number of public and community libraries per 100 000 people), and their use (measured by numbers of visits and loans per capita).

Participation in such artistic activities can be used as a proxy for levels of creativity, as well as a broader indicator of the strength of culture.

Graph 1a: Public/Community Libraries per 100 000 People and Frequency of Participation in Artistic Activities

Graph 1a therefore compares the shares of the population reporting that they participate in artistic activities at least once a week, at least once a month, and not at all in the last year, with the number of public and community libraries per 100 000 people.

In this (as in all the graphs in this post), each dot represents one country. The higher up a dot is, the higher the share of people reporting that they practice an artistic activity at a given frequency. The further to the right it is, the more public or community libraries there are per 100 000 people in the country.

This finds little relationship between the presence of public and community libraries and levels of participation in artistic activities.

However, as in previous posts, it is worth looking at just those countries with up to 20 public or community libraries per 100 000 people (above the European and global averages) – this allows us to exclude more extreme cases.

Graph 1b: Public/Community Libraries per 100 000 People and Frequency of Participation in Artistic Activities (up to 20 Libraries per 100K)

Graph 1b does this, showing a much stronger link between the presence of libraries and participation in artistic activities. More public and community libraries tends to be associated with greater shares engaging regularly in artistic activities (and smaller shares not engaging at all).

For example, every extra public or community library per 100 000 people tends to be associated with a fall of almost 2 percentage points in the share of the population not engaging in artistic activities at all.

Graph 2: Public/Community Library Visits per Person and Frequency of Participation in Artistic Activities

Graph 2 continues the analysis, but looking rather at a key indicator of intensity of use of libraries – the average number of visits per person per year. This finds a similar trend as in Graph 1b, with more regular visits to libraries associated with higher engagement in artistic activities.

Here, every one additional visit to a public or community library per person per year is associated with an almost three point rise in the share of the population engaging in artistic activities at least once a month.

Graph 3: Total Loans per Person and Frequency of Participation in Artistic Activities

Graph 3 does the same but with the average number of loans per person per year, and again shows that more regular borrowing of books tends to be associated with more regular participation in artistic activities. Each additional loan per person per year tends to be linked with a fall of over two points in the share of the population not engaged in any artistic activity in the past year.

Overall, these graphs underline the connection between the presence and use of libraries, and wider involvement in artistic activities. Clearly, we cannot say for sure say that there is causality in one direction or the other. Indeed, both library use and other artistic activity could be the result of a single cause, such as a strong focus on culture in education or a wider appreciation of being cultured.

Nonetheless, it does support the argument that societies which are more involved in artistic activities – and so which arguably encourage creativity – are characterised by a greater number of public libraries (at least up to around 20 public libraries per 100 000 people), and more intense use of these.


The second part of this post looks at data around frequency of participation in specific cultural activities – namely visits to the cinema, going to live performances (theatre, concerts), and visits to cultural or heritage institutions (including monuments and museums).

This data, as far as it appears, does not include data on library visits. However, it provides an insight into the strength of the wider cultural sector. In particular, larger numbers of people going regularly to the cinema or a live performance, or visiting a cultural or heritage institution, bring advantages in terms of revenues for each of the sectors concerned.

The following analyses look at how the share of the population carrying out these different activities regularly (at least four times a year) compares with numbers of visits to libraries per person per year, as an indicator of how well used libraries are.

Graph 4a: Public/Community Library Visits and Share of 16+ Population Participating in Cultural Activities 4 or More Times Per Year

Graph 4a therefore looks at the share of the population aged 16 or more going to each of the three types of cultural event four or more times per year. It indicates a positive correlation – in countries where there are higher average numbers of library visits per year, there are also more people going regularly to the cinema, to live events, or to cultural or heritage institutions.

The most positive correlation here is between visits to libraries and visits to cultural or heritage institutions, with live performances and cinema following closely behind. For every additional library visit per person per year, there tends to be a rise of 1.4 points in the share of the population visiting cultural or heritage institutions regularly.

Graph 4b: Public/Community Library Visits and Share of 16+ Population with Low Education Participating in Cultural Activities 4 or More Times Per Year

Graph 4b looks specifically at the case of people with lower education (defined as less than primary and lower secondary education), given that people in this situation can be at risk of exclusion. A break-down of this data is not available for libraries, and so data for the whole population is used.

The graph indicates that levels of regular participation in different events or activities are lower than for the population as a whole. However, we see the same positive connections with even stronger correlations between average use of libraries (for the population as a whole), and participation in different activities (for people with lower education).

In other words, there is an indication that there may be links between use of libraries and participation in other events, even for those who may otherwise be at risk of exclusion.

Graph 5a: Public/Community Library Visits and Share of 16+ Population (by Education Level) Visiting Culture and Heritage Institutions Regularly

Graph 5a looks specifically at cultural and heritage institutions, given that these are, in other circumstances, often considered as part of a group with libraries (GLAMs). They can also have similar functions as community spaces, where visitors have more freedom to discover for themselves.

In addition to the positive link between library visits per capita and shares of the population as a whole, it helps underline similar positive links for people with both high and low levels of formal education. Interestingly, the strength of the correlation is highest for those only primary and lower secondary education.

Graph 5b: Public/Community Library Visits and Share of 16-29 Population (by Education Level) Visiting Culture and Heritage Institutions Regularly

Graph 5b repeats the analysis for younger people (aged 16-29) and comes to a similar conclusion – where there are more visits to libraries per person (again, for the whole population), there tend to be higher numbers of people regularly visiting cultural and heritage institutions.

Graph 6: Public/Community Library Visits and Share of Population (by Age) Visiting Culture and Heritage Institutions Regularly

Finally, Graph 6 looks rather at trends for different age groups. This finds very little difference in the relations between library visits (for the whole population) and for the share of younger (16-29 year olds), older (65-74 year olds) and the population as a whole (anyone over 16). In each case, the connection is positive.


This post has looked at different indicators of levels of participation in culture. Maximising this participation can be seen as a goal in itself, a driver of wellbeing for individuals, a support for the cultural sector, and as a foundation for strong economies and societies in general.

While, as always, correlation cannot be read as causality, there certainly are positive links between levels of presence and use of public and community libraries and engagement in artistic activities. The same goes for visits to public and community libraries and regularly going to the cinema, live performances and other cultural and heritage institutions, including across age groups and levels of education.

The data presented here therefore supports the argument that a well-supported and well-used public and community library field tends to be associated with wider participation in artistic and cultural activities, either as a gateway or as a complement. It can help support arguments for libraries to be considered as a key part of cultural policy, as a support for the wider creative economy, and indeed as actors in boosting creativity in general.

Part two of this post will look, finally, at data around the strength and use of public and community libraries and reading habits.


Find out more on the Library Map of the World, where you can download key library data in order to carry out your own analysis! See our other Library Stats of the Week! We are happy to share the data that supported this analysis on request.

Restitution with a Catch? The Copyright Perspective on the Sarr-Savoy Report

The Sarr-Savoy report on the restitution of African cultural heritage, published in November 2018, proposes to recontextualise the presence of African artefacts in French heritage collections.

The objective of this report is to develop, in view of the role of the French state in colonisation, recommendations to update relevant laws around restitutions, as well as to encourage bilateral agreements with countries following requests for restitution.

Among its recommendations, the report suggests that collections which are returned should be subject to digitisation beforehand, with the digitised files then made available for use under free and open access to everyone.

This recommendation is easy to miss in the report, as the paragraphs which concern it are discreet. Nonetheless, it raises questions on two essential questions:

Who owns the physical and digital collections and who has the right to choose the policy of digitisation and openness of these artefacts?

This blog looks at the report’s approach, and presents some of the concerns expressed by this, in particular through a letter drafted by Mathilde Parvis and Andrea Wallace.

First of all, the suggestion to digitise and make collections accessible may seem an interesting initiative in the context of outreach by heritage institutions. For a number of years now, it has been clear that giving access to digital collections is a key mission for cultural institutions, as the report mentions briefly.

However, there are questions about whether this should be subject to the decision of the French state, or be a pre-condition for restitution. The term ‘restitution’, as defined in the report, is strongly connected to the question of legitimate ownership of the object. This cannot be brushed aside when it comes to digital collections.

Arguably, the legitimate ownership by African governments of returned items should give them the right to take decisions regarding the appropriate policy to be put in place on digital collections. Can it be appropriate for the government of a former colonial power to set out such demands in a restitution agreement when talking about heritage that arguably should never have been in its possession in the first place?

Indeed, as Mathilde Parvis and Andrea Wallace’s response perfectly underlines: it should rather be up to the communities to make decisions concerning the artefacts of their heritage. Indeed, suggesting or imposing in bilateral agreements a policy of digitisation and open access to collections appears to be at odds with the principle of recognition of spoliation.

Moreover, the report’s proposals concerning free and open access to and use of images does not seem to match the policy around images in French collections. Indeed, French policy on openGLAM is not based on a centralized ministerial incentive but on the will of cities and organisations independently of each other (whereas German GLAM institutions are far more organised and supported).

The request made to African governments regarding the opening of access to digital collections of collections seems, therefore, to be antithetical with the policy it applies to the digital collections of France’s own institutions.

Clearly, openness is to be welcomed in general as the best way of giving the biggest number of people possible the opportunity to engage with heritage, where other concerns (privacy or indigenous rights for example) do not stand in the way. Nonetheless, in these conditions, it risks being seen as an imposition, not a virtue.

Therefore, Parvis and Wallace’s reply defines several ways to reframe the recommendations of the Sarr-Savoy report, such as:

– Clearly define the scope of Open Access – commercial, non-commercial, public domain, possibility of reuse.
– Clearly define who owns the digital image reproductions.
– Carry out research on the conformity of these recommendations concerning the laws of African countries.
– Do not separate digital reproductions from returned objects because the reproductions are also subject to cultural appropriation.

With plans now underway to reform France’s Heritage Code, we will follow closely how this debate is reflected in any proposed amendments.

Five Library Values that Should Matter in a Post-Pandemic World

Even as the world continues to fight the COVID-19 Pandemic, there is already talk – in particular at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum – of how we can ‘build back better’.

This term – previously mainly used in the context of recovery from disasters – provides a reminder that shocks of different sorts do provide an opportunity to reassess and revise the way we do things.

Of course, this is not to take attention away from the vital immediate responses to the crisis, and in particular the work done by health and other essential workers to keep societies moving. Librarians have also played their part, working to ensure that communities continue to benefit as far as possible from connectivity, access to resources, and advice.

What it should mean, however, is that when we take decisions about the recovery from COVID-19, we do not feel compelled simply to re-create what happened before. Those who take decisions should feel freer to change things, making for a stronger, fairer and more sustainable society.

In this, the experience of the Pandemic already suggests that five key values of libraries could and should play a bigger role:

Information matters: following years of growing concerns about the spread and influence of misinformation online, and the readiness of politicians to dismiss expert perspectives, the pandemic has seen governments in many countries give a much higher recognition of, and profile to, scientists and researchers.

This is a welcome step – the importance of the access to information that libraries provide is only as great as the importance of the information itself, in the eyes of a decision maker.

Now is a good time to ensure a focus on creating strong and sustainable information infrastructures, not least in the shape of libraries, in order to ensure the preservation, organisation and availability of information into the future.

Connectivity matters: libraries’ mission to provide access to information has meant that they were early adopters, and even innovators, in the development of the internet. Almost 2/3 of public libraries in countries for which we have data offer internet access to users, giving opportunities to get online, use computers, and receive training and support.

The pandemic has made clear the costs of being on the wrong side of the digital divide, with almost half of the world population not able to use digital tools to continue their work, education or social interaction.

Faced, in particular, with many students who will have risked dropping further behind their richer peers, there is a strong case for a serious investment in moving towards universal connectivity. Libraries and other public access solutions (including through libraries as nodes in networks) should be a key part of any action plan.

 Universality matters: the pandemic has had far reaching consequences for almost everyone. This is not to say that the impact has been the same for everyone. Clearly those in precarious jobs, with less favourable housing situations, or who otherwise face marginalisation or discrimination, have too often suffered far more than others.

Nonetheless, we may be at a moment where decision-makers – and citizens – are more favourable to universal services. In other words, having seen that there are phenomena that affect everyone for the worse, it is also appropriate to take actions that affect everyone for the better.

Public libraries are a great example of this, with a clear mission to provide universal service, in line with the IFLA-UNESCO Public Library Manifesto. Clearly libraries themselves always need to be aware of how their work may be more or less accessible or welcoming to different individuals and groups.

Culture matters: culture is all too often seen as being at the periphery of policy-making, a secondary concern compared to issues such as finance, security or foreign affairs. Yet the right to participate in cultural life is a fundamental right, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Pandemic has seen many turn to culture as a source of comfort in difficult times, as well as making clear the role of cultural concerns (the norms, values, and behaviours of individuals and groups) in the effectiveness of the response. Cultural institutions, not least libraries, have also been valuable sources of information and stories to inform responses and put things into context.

If we are now to build policies that are more responsive, better adapted, and so more effective, as well as promoting wellbeing as a goal, culture and cultural institutions need to be part of the picture.

Rights matter: a common theme in the four previous sections has been the idea that people have rights – to information, education, public services and culture. There are others to take into account – private life, free expression, and freedom from discrimination to name a few.

The pandemic has brought home to many the value of these rights, often of course when they are compromised. It has also forced greater awareness and reflection on the tension that can exist between rights – freedom of assembly and the right to health, freedom of speech and the right not to be subject to discrimination. The latter has been particularly clear in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

While this may risk being perhaps the most optimistic of the suggestions in this article, we can hope that when we build back after COVID-19, we can be in a world which recognises the value of careful decision-making about how best to enforce rights for everyone. These are the choices librarians themselves make in the services they provide.