Tag Archives: DA2I

Living in Interesting Times – Three Key Debates in Information Politics

Libraries and the politics of information in 2019

Information has long been political – who has it, who should have it, and how can it be used to shape decision-making. However, it is only relatively recently that this has been recognised.

On the philosophical side of things, much comes from the work of thinkers such as Michel Foucault, who explained the power that comes from organising information in specific ways (‘knowledge is power’). On the more practical side, the emergence of the internet has given a practical focus to broader reflections on how information is created and shared.

It therefore makes sense to think about the politics of information – the discussions and disagreements that take place around key issues. These questions are particularly key for libraries, as central stakeholders in how information is accessed, shared and governed.

2018 has seen a number of key debates come into focus, with further developments expected in 2019. These relate to whether information should be privatised or made publicly available, where privacy should triumph over access, and where free speech should give way to public order concerns.

This blog will offer a short introduction to each question, and relevant examples of legal and policy discussions which will shape information politics in the coming year.


Privatisation vs Public Availability of Knowledge

Knowledge – at least in the form of books or other documents – was long subject to constraints both on producers and users. These helped avoid widespread copying, but at the same time allowed users some flexibility in what they did with the written knowledge they held.

The expense of owning a printing press meant that the number of people who could publish was limited (although of course not enough to prevent calls for copyright to be invented in 1709). At the same time, once a book or newspaper had been sold, it was easy enough to share it with others or use it for research or other purposes.

Therefore, while the concept of copyright was intended to give the writings contained in books and other documents the same status as physical objects (in terms of the possibility of owning them), it was only ever an imperfect solution.

Digital technologies have weakened these constraints. It is far easier to publish (or copy) and share works than ever before, but also to place limits (through a mix of legal and technological means) on their uses. In other words, it has never been easier to provide universal access to knowledge, but at the same time, it is also simpler to make the knowledge contained in a book or other document private, with all access and use subject to licences.

These new possibilities have created a gap in legal provisions in many countries, given that there had, previously, been no cause to make rules. With this has come a sense that laws also need to be updated, rather than leaving things up to the market or the courts. This is the underlying reason for the ongoing European Union copyright reform, but also elsewhere.

Specific questions raised in this reform, as elsewhere, include whether people involved in teaching should be able to use materials to which they have access, whether researchers and others should be allowed to carry out text and data mining, and whether libraries should be allowed to take preservation copies.

There are also questions about whether the platforms which allow users to share materials should place the protection of intellectual property above the right of their users to free expression.

2019 is likely to see some sort of conclusion to discussions on these subjects in the European Union, South Africa and Nigeria, as well as key steps forwards in Canada, Singapore, and Australia.


Protecting Privacy vs Giving Access

The idea of ‘ownership’ of information is not only associated with intellectual property rights. Increasingly, it also comes up when we talk about personal information – anything that says anything about a person.

Once again, the idea that people have an interest in information about them is not new – there have long been laws on libel which allow individuals to act against writings that are unfair or defamatory. Rulers have also been prolific users of laws against sedition or lèse-majesté. However, such provisions have tended to be limited to the wealthy and powerful.

Here too, digital technologies have changed things by allowing for a much greater potential to collect and use information about people, be it for advertising, security or other purposes. They have also – for example through search engines – made it much easier for ordinary people to access information that might otherwise have been forgotten or too difficult to find.

With this, the idea of a right over information about you has emerged in a number of privacy and data protection laws around the world. The primary focus tends to be on data gathered by companies, with justifications running from a desire to understand advertising choices to enabling customers to shop around between service providers.

In parallel, security concerns have tended to see greater powers given to governments in the types of data they can collect and use, as well as limitations on the transparency obligations they face.

2018 saw the entry into force of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, and similar rules emerge in a number of US States and Latin American countries. There have also been new security rules applied giving governments new powers to gather data on suspected terrorists (as well as many others).

2019 may well see more similar efforts, as well as new efforts to take advantage of new powers over personal information.


Protecting Free Speech vs Tackling ‘Dangerous’ Content

A key way in which the political value of information has long been recognised is through the efforts made to control free expression. Ideas and writings deemed to be dangerous to political, economic or social goals, for example through calling for insurrection, infringement of copyright, or simply because it is criminal, have long been the subject of attention by governments.

It is true that the right to free speech is a crucial one, but it is not absolute. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights notes that all rights can potentially be limited when this is necessary to fulfil the rights of others. As regards the right to equality, there is explicit mention of the importance of combatting incitement to discrimination.

More recently, the way the internet has developed has both made it easier for people to share and spread ideas (dangerous or otherwise). It has also involved relatively well defined actors and channels – search engines, social media platforms, internet service providers – with key powers over what is shared. Through their own actions – or actions they are obliged to take – there is a possibility to exert much greater control over what can be said and shared than when someone opens their mouth.

We come across this debate in discussions around concepts like ‘fake news’, terrorist content, hate speech, criminal content, and to some extent copyright infringement. In each situation, there is content that is clearly illegal and clearly legal. But there are also often grey areas, where judgement and nuance may be needed.

The problem is that the solution often proposed for identifying and blocking such content – automatic filtering, brings its own challenges. There are issues that go from the practical (are they good enough?), to the political (without incentives to protect free speech, do they risk ‘accidentally’ blocking legal content?), and human rights-related (should rights be given and taken away by a machine?).

At the same time, human moderation is expensive (in particular if done properly, by people with knowledge of relevant cultures), and can cause serious psychological damage to the people doing it. The costs are likely too high for smaller actors.

Clearly, this is a particularly difficult problem in information politics, not helped by cross-over with other areas of politics. This can make it hard to promote proportionate or nuanced approaches.

There is legislation in a number of jurisdictions which seeks to crack down on terrorist content and copyright infringement through (explicitly or otherwise) automatic filtering. Some have sought to ban ‘fake news’ (a highly dubious step), and others have put pressure on internet platforms to do the same, creating incentives to take an ever tougher line on content. With public pressure growing, major internet companies seem set to implement ever more conservative approaches in order to avoid blame.


What Implications for Libraries?

As highlighted at the beginning, libraries are key actors in information politics. They are central – both practically and symbolically – to the idea that everyone should have meaningful access to information.

A first priority is to defend this core idea. Too many are still offline, too many lack formal education or the possibility to learn throughout life, too many cannot find the information they need to live healthily, find work or start businesses, or to engage in public life.

Libraries are also unique, as public, welcoming institutions, with a clear social interest goal, rather than a focus on profit. Nonetheless, this status does not spare them from the effects of decisions taken in relation to the three major debates set out above.

They clearly depend on limitations on the privatisation of knowledge in order to do their jobs, but need a system that allows writers, researchers and others to keep on producing. They need to protect privacy (key to giving users the sense that they can seek and share information freely), but must also resist sweeping restrictions on what materials they can collect, hold and give access to.

And while they understand the need to act against dangerous speech, they know from long experience that managing information is complicated and requires skilled judgements based on expertise and values – something that a machine cannot replicate.

While it may not always be popular – or easy to explain – libraries will need to set out and defend the importance of a balanced approach, one that allows for meaningful access to information for all, not just in 2019 but long into the future.


This blog is based on a presentation initially given at the Eurolib conference in Brussels on 12 November 2018.

Words of the SDGs: Leave No One Behind

Continuing our series of blogs looking at the words (and phrases) which mark the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda, today’s edition looks at ‘leaving no one behind’.

Perhaps unlike some of our previous ‘words’ (intersectionality, resilience, participation), this feels like a refreshing step away from jargon. This has also made it particularly powerful as a term, although, as this blog will explore, it is not the subject of complete consensus.

As with our other ‘words’, it also has an impact on how libraries work with the Sustainable Development Goals, and can become a useful part of library advocacy in this area.

Leave No One Behind

A Vital Shift: From Focusing on the Poorest to Leaving No One Behind

At the heart of the Millennium Development Goals – the predecessor to the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals – was the notion that economic and social progress around the world had failed to make a difference to the poorest. Too many lacked education, sanitation, healthcare, or adequate income. The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) therefore focused on the worst-off.

The measures of progress chosen focused on this group, but used global averages. As a result, thanks to rapid growth in countries like China, leading to falls in absolute poverty and improvements in services, it was possible to declare success on a number of the Goals.

This did not mean, however, that all countries or groups saw progress. Many of the most vulnerable – the targets of the MDGs – saw little improvement, or even went backwards.

The 2030 Agenda acknowledged this point head on by asserting that not only were the SDGs an indivisible whole (all had to be achieved, together), but that they could only be achieved if they were achieved for everyone. This is the basis of the concept of leaving no one behind.

More Complex than it Sounds

While the idea of achieving the Goals for all appears simple, it also raises questions. What does this mean about where governments – and the global community – should focus efforts? Does ‘no one’ refer to countries (i.e. developing countries), groups within countries or individuals? How does this relate to sustainability? All came up in a civil society debate on Sunday, as well as in previous research on the topic.

Fortunately, there is a relatively simple answer to the first question – the primary focus should be on those who need it most. This follows a concept known as ‘progressive universalism’ (for which the model was a Mexican healthcare reform that specifically served the most vulnerable before anyone else).

Yet debate remains as to ‘who’ is left behind. With the 2030 Agenda explicitly focused on the whole world, the implication is that it is citizens and groups within countries who run this risk. Nonetheless, there is also a strong argument that countries with low national income are also vulnerable, and so need support.

A further evolution in the 2030 Agenda is the recognition that being left behind is also a question of where you stand relative to the population as a whole. Even in a rich society, inequalities can have significant impacts on life chances and general wellbeing. The SDGs even include a focus on inequality (SDG10), underlining that even when (if) we can put an end to absolute poverty, there is still much work to do.

In turn, these inequalities are often the result of discrimination. This can come both in social and cultural forms (racism, sexism, etc), but also discrimination through lack of access to the same services as others. People living in rural areas do, arguably, run a higher risk of being unable to access health and education than those in towns and cities. The focus on fighting discrimination – a key notion from human rights – is also a novelty in the SDGs.

Finally, an ongoing debate surrounds whether bringing everyone up to the standard of living of the best off is a good idea as far as the planet is concerned. It seems clear enough that if all pollute as much as the highest polluting, climate change will only get worse. To avoid this, those lucky enough to live in richer societies either need to find much more energy and resource-efficient ways of living, or accept having to share.

What Impact for Libraries

As a universal public service, libraries can already make a strong case, within their communities, to be realising the concept of leaving no one behind. Given the importance of information, as highlighted across the SDGs (19 targets), this is a role worth championing.

In many countries, libraries have a specific mandate to reach out to those populations who are more at risk of being left behind, such as those with special needs. Evidence from the Pew Research Centre suggests that groups seen as minorities rate libraries as more important than others.

In effect, through providing a universal service, paired with additional support to those who need it, libraries both provide targeted assistance to those most at risk, and act as a force for equality in general.

Clearly there is still progress to make in some parts of the world. The idea of leaving no one behind provides a strong argument for investment by governments in libraries.

This is the case not only in terms of promoting physical accessibility (both for people with disabilities, and a wider network of libraries in rural areas), but also as concerns financial accessibility (where there are fees for access), and socio-cultural and legal accessibility (ensuring that citizenship status is not a barrier, as highlighted by the Mayor of Montreal in a session on Monday, and overcoming the belief in some communities that the library is not for them).

Libraries can be key players in fighting both information poverty and information inequality. The concept of leaving no one behind provides a valuable tool for advocacy to make this a reality.

Find out more about IFLA’s presence at the 2018 High Level Political Forum, as well as our broader work on libraries and the UN 2030 Agenda.

Further reading:

Words of the SDGs: Intersectionality

UN Headquarters, New York


The High Level Political Forum is an overwhelming experience, with enough events taking place at the same time to make planning your day full of hard choices. But in addition to the number of events, getting to grips with the words, the vocabulary used in discussions can be a further barrier.

While it is easy enough to criticise such words simply as jargon, a key lesson of IFLA’s International Advocacy Programme has been if we want to convince experts and decision-makers of our message, we need to use this language.

Therefore, a number of our blogs during HLPF 2018 will focus on key words used in the SDGs, in order to explain how they are used, and what they mean for libraries. The goal – to help libraries feel ownership of these words, and use them in their own work.


The idea of intersectionality is not unique the SDGs, but is particularly relevant in this context. It is the idea that while academic – and often policy – debate focuses on specific themes, at the level of individuals and communities, these themes come together.

Indeed, the crossing of different issues can have a variety of different outcomes, sometimes to make things worse, sometimes better. Sometimes a lack of progress in one area simply cancels out progress in another.


Intersectionality in the UN Context

The concept of intersectionality is indeed at the heart of the 2030 Agenda. The Sustainable Development Goals are not just indivisible, but interconnected. Indeed, next year’s Global Report on Sustainable Development will focus on these linkages. By recognising these relationships, it becomes easier for governments and others to plan actions that will have a positive impact for individuals.

The importance of intersectionality – getting the right combination of measures to make a difference – has come up in a number of side events at the High Level Political Forum.

Intersectionality and Smart Cities

A first – a side event organised by the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and the Committee on NGOs – focused on inspiring examples of smart city initiatives from Korea, Mexico and the Philippines. Each of these had focused not just on ‘hard’ technology, but including people. The city of Suwon in particular had developed adapted opportunities for people of all ages to learn and be informed, provide necessary spaces, and change mindsets.

The key common trend across the examples – making use of libraries. Because as institutions focused on finding the best solutions in individuals, they can help not only with providing materials, but also comfort and motivation for learning. In the Philippines and Korea in particular, there had been strong investment in libraries, with the results already paying off.

Intersectionality, ICTs and Development

The second side event, organised by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), brought together people focusing on how ICTs can support development. Here too, it was clear that there are a number of factors and trends at play in determining whether the Internet realises its potential, from physical connections to local content, from the financial to the psychological.

A major drive on public internet access could be undone by a failure to protect privacy, while changes to regulation to favour market solutions will have less effect if there is no work to develop skills and confidence online.

Here too, libraries stand at the point of intersection, offering not only Internet access, but also the support and training to make this meaningful.


For all of its apparently technical nature, the idea of intersectionality is at the heart of what libraries and librarians are doing when they look to support users in accessing information. As institutions which, by their nature, cross disciplines and information sources in order to focus on what works, libraries can take ownership of this word – and concept – in their own work.

Meaningful Access to Information: Essential, but not Easy

In its engagement with the United Nations, IFLA’s messaging centres on the importance of access to information. The type of information may vary – government, health, educational, communications – as may the specific objective, but the need for access is constant.

Address by María Soledad Cisternas Reyes at the Opening of the HLPF 2018

Address by María Soledad Cisternas Reyes at the Opening of the HLPF 2018

The opening session of this year’s High Level Political Forum saw a great explanation of why this is important. Ms. María Soledad Cisternas Reyes, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility highlighted how we are not addressing civil or political rights of millions of people who have no access to information.

Those without access had no way of knowing how to achieve social development and participate in society. The lack of efforts to provide meaningful, inclusive access to information left people unable to express their desires, realise their potential, and exercise their rights, not least the right to vote. Addressing the lack of access to information, for all, was vital in sustainable development.


Yet given how multi-faceted it is, delivering access to information is not necessarily easy. At a session organised by UNESCO in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of the Argentine Republic to the United Nations: “The role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the implementation of the targets in SDG 11” the focused on how to deliver truly smart cities.

Side event by UNESCO: "The role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the implementation of the targets in SDG 11"

Side event by UNESCO: “The role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the implementation of the targets in SDG 11”

Participants highlighted different elements of access – the need for transparency about government information, the need for connectivity and digital skills, the need for places where people could feel safe to go online, and the need to protect privacy yet at the same time understand community needs.

In short, access is about more than creating an app or creating a website, it also requires adapted, welcoming, and outcome-orientated support mechanisms.

Fortunately, libraries help on all of these fronts. As pre-existing, trusted public institutions, with trained, dedicated staff, ensuring citizen empowerment and participation, they provide access to information, internet connection, and digital skills, while protecting privacy.

IFLA’s intervention was very well received by the audience. To support the point, the example of Medellín (Colombia) was mentioned, where building libraries was the solution found by government in a city formerly marked by violence and exclusion. Libraries, and library parks, became community centres, chosen and owned by citizens as safe public gathering and learning spaces.


Side event: “Monitoring peace, evaluating institutions, building capacity: A data-driven conversation on SDG 16 and its upcoming 2019 review SDGs Learning, Training and Practice”

Side event: “Monitoring peace, evaluating institutions, building capacity: A data-driven conversation on SDG 16 and its upcoming 2019 review SDGs Learning, Training and Practice”

At the side event: “Monitoring peace, evaluating institutions, building capacity: A data-driven conversation on SDG 16 and its upcoming 2019 review SDGs Learning, Training and Practice”, organized by UNITAR & IDEA, the issue of lack of proper indicators to monitor SDG 16 were again addressed as a big issue that needs to be solved.

Given next year’s HLPF focus in this SDG, participants proposed to organise a meeting for SDG 16 civil society stakeholders in preparation for this review. This idea was supported by the speakers as an idea worth exploring.

Side event: "SDGS on a local level"

Side event: “SDGS on a local level”

There were similar reflections on the need to find ways to measure progress towards sustainable development, especially at the local level (for example “SDGS on a local level”, organized by UNITAR, and “Practical Tools to Localize and Implement the SDG11 and the New Urban Agenda in Cities in the Developing World”, organized by UN-HABITAT.

Especially in the case of target 11.4 (safeguarding cultural heritage), this was particularly important, given that data needed to be collected locally to be meaningful. Yet for them to be comparable – to be able to get a global idea of progress – there had to be enough similarity in the methods used.

Side event: “Practical Tools to Localize and Implement the SDG11 and the New Urban Agenda in Cities in the Developing World”

Side event: “Practical Tools to Localize and Implement the SDG11 and the New Urban Agenda in Cities in the Developing World”

IFLA is addressing both of these challenges. In order to resolve the complexity of how to measure access to information, the Development and Access to Information (DA2I) report, produced in partnership with TASCHA, suggests a basket of indicators. These can be followed over time, and the interactions between the different components explored in order to understand what an effective set of policies for access to information could look like.

Similarly, through IFLA’s Library Map of the World, we are looking at developing capacity to collect library data locally, in a form that then can be explored globally. As this develops, it will become an essential tool in the analysis of the global library field and its contribution to development.

IFLA at the Second meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development – Days 3, 4 and 5 (Advocacy at the Forum, Side event and Civil Society Declaration)

IFLA Delegation at the ForumAfter taking active part in two days of Civil Society meetings on 16-17 April at the Second meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development, IFLA’s delegation in Santiago, Chile, continued its advocacy efforts to get libraries and access to information into the Agenda.

18 April started bright and early, securing a seat in the Civil Society area to attend the official opening of the Forum by Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) (read the speech and watch the video).

During her welcome address, she stressed:

“It is essential that the civil society is actively involved in the processes that contribute to decision-making, planning and implementation of policies and programmes that promote sustainable development in its three dimensions and at all levels, and that appropriates it to ensure it permeates widely in all social sectors, and everywhere.

This is even more relevant in the current political context, and the changes in the governments that the region is going through. Civil society must be guarantor of continuity in the process of implementing the 2030 Agenda and that this roadmap is a substantial part of the development agendas of the new governments of the region.”

“Let’s continue creating together the conditions for civil society to continue articulating its modalities of participation, dialogue and collaboration with national and regional mechanisms such as the Forum for monitoring and progress review of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and that, in this way, we generate renewed and solid partnerships for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and their respective targets.”

She then continued by adding:

“Actually, the 2030 Agenda will only be achieved if all the actors are sitting around the table and that’s why we wanted the present Forum to have a multi-actor characteristic.”

The address was followed by a message pronounced by Norma Munguía, Director General for Global Affairs, on behalf of Ambassador Miguel Ruiz Cabañas, Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs of Mexico and Chair of the Forum (read the speech).

In her message, Norma Munguía stated:

We must encourage the use of technology and innovation in improving the living conditions of our societies, while facilitating access to information and promoting the mobilization of public and private resources.

Later, Alicia Bárcena gave an overview of the key points (download presentation) of the Second annual report on regional progress and challenges in relation to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Latin America and the Caribbean launched during the  Forum.

While part of IFLA delegation was still working on drafting the Civil Society Declaration, the rest of IFLA delegates attended the peer learning sessions in the afternoon. This helped to find the right moment to approach Alicia Bárcena to bring the message of libraries.

Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)Adriana Cybele Ferrari (FEBAB President, Brazil and IFLA IAP participant) approached ECLAC’s Executive Secretary and delivered a copy of the Development and Access to Information (DA2I) report, informing her that the library community is present at the Forum advocating for libraries and access to information. She also took the opportunity to mention the side event at the ECLAC Library on 19 April, and the launch of the “Santiago Declaration: Access to information to achieve sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean” during this event, which was enthusiastically encouraged by Mrs. Bárcena.

IFLA ECLAC Side Event19 April was an extremely successful day for our IFLA delegation, with two main highlights: the side event hosted by ECLAC’s Hernán Santa Cruz Library in partnership with IFLA: “The importance of access to information to achieve sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the reading of the Civil Society Declaration during the session “Dialogues on multi-stakeholder contributions to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, including access to information and culture. Learn more details of these two key milestones by reading our news piece and watching the recording of the side event.Reading of the Civil Society Declaration

At the end of this day, Jonathan Hernández Pérez (CNB President, Mexico and Associate of IFLA’s ILP) had the opportunity to meet Miguel Ruiz Cabañas, Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs of Mexico. Jonathan took this chance to introduce himself, IFLA and the CNB, present the work of libraries supporting development in Mexico, and offered the support of the library community for the preparations of Mexico’s next Voluntary National Review (VNR), providing clear examples of libraries’ contributions to development.

On 20 April, the last day of the Forum, IFLA delegates attended several sessions, including “Special statement on the importance of the regional dimension in the 2018 and 2019 meetings of the high-level political forum on sustainable development” and the side events: “Engaging scientists in the Latin American and Caribbean region to support the implementation of the SDGs” and “Recognizing the whole-of-society approach to the SDGs through integration of volunteerism data in VNRs”.

A quieter day at the Forum, allowed for pop-up advocacy action by both of our delegates Adriana Cybele Ferrari and Jonathan Hernández Pérez.

Jonathan approached Adolfo Ayuso-Audry, General Director of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Office of the President of Mexico, at the end of a side event to introduce the work of libraries in development, and ask for involvement in the Mexican VNR Commission. Minister Ayuso-Audry asked for his contact information and requested a brief to learn more about how libraries support the SDGs.

Adriana found her chance when she bumped into Enrique Villa da Costa Ferreira, National Secretary for Social Coordination of the Government Secretariat of the Office of the President of Brazil, and took the opportunity to introduce herself, present the work of libraries in Brazil, and ask to be included in the sectoral committees that work in the monitoring and implementation of the Agenda at the national level. Secretary Villa da Costa Ferreira provided guidance on how to get involved and Adriana promised to follow up.

Would you like to learn more about the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development – 2018?

Watch the recording of our side event with ECLAC’s Library in YouTube, find out more about IFLA’s work on libraries and development and the Development and Access to Information (DA2I) report.

*Photos by Sueli Mara Soares Pinto Ferreira, Lucia Abello and IFLA.

IFLA at the Second meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development – Days 1 and 2 (Civil Society Meetings)

Kicking-off a full week advocating for libraries and access to information at the Second meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development, IFLA’s delegation in Santiago, Chile, took active part of meetings organised by civil society at the Forum on 16-17 April.

On 17 April, local organisations representing civil society, Mesa de Articulación de Asociaciones Nacionales y Redes Regionales de ONG de América Latina y El Caribe and Asociación Chilena de Organismos No Gubernamentales (Acción Internacional), organised two side events about relevant issues related to Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) involvement in the UN 2030 Agenda and international cooperation, as well as the status of alternative reporting and their interactions with Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs).

South-south cooperation and the 2030 Agenda: challenges of civil society in LAC

Starting in the morning of 17 April, IFLA was present at the side event “South-south cooperation and the 2030 Agenda: challenges of civil society in LAC” where the situation of international cooperation in Chile and the role of CSOs in the 2030 Agenda implementation process and mechanisms was presented.  

In the afternoon, the “Training workshop on alternative reporting” was a perfect opportunity to present the Development and Access to Information (DA2I) report, a contribution from IFLA and TASCHA to the monitoring of the 2030 Agenda by measuring access to information and the libraries’ contribution to achieving sustainable development and the 17 SDGs. The event discussed shadow reporting, including an overview of challenges presented by SDG indicators, and reflections related to financing and CSOs involvement and support.Training workshop on alternative reporting

The programme of the Forum started officially on 17 April with the “Latin America and the Caribbean civil society consultation prior to the second meeting of the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development” (morning and afternoon programmes).

Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) opened with a speech addressing her views on the current status of the 2030 Agenda in the region, and she stated: “Governments have stopped talking about the 2030 Agenda (…) The 2030 Agenda is a priority, a necessity. It’s the only way to battle inequality.”

Opening by Alicia Bárcena

This event was an excellent opportunity for IFLA delegates present on the first days of the Forum: Adriana Cybele Ferrari (FEBAB President, Brazil) and Maria Violeta Bertolini (IFLA), with the support of Sueli Mara Soares Pinto Ferreira (IFLA Governing Board Member/FEBAB, Brazil) to connect with other civil society organisations and ensure the need for meaningful access to information is considered throughout the event as a key element for sustainable development.

IFLA delegation at the ForumAs a few highlights: as a result of networking with fellow Brazilian civil society members, Adriana was invited to be involved in the Comissão Nacional para os Objetivos de Desenvolvimento Sustentável (CNODS) of Brazil. Moreover, the IFLA the delegation had the opportunity to connect with Rosario Diaz Garavito, founder of The Millennials Movement and one of the UN NGO Major Group Operating Partners for Latin America as well as Co Focal Point on Humanitarian Affairs for the LATAM region. This was an opportunity to identify the common interests related to empowering youth, in our case through libraries, and to discuss potential room for collaboration at a regional level.IFLA with NGO Major Group LATAM

During the Civil Society consultation, the IFLA delegation took part in the discussions where key ideas to be included in the Civil Society Declaration were presented, to form a collective declaration that will be read at the Forum before the end of this week. In addition to submitting a key idea arguing for the need to recognise access to information as a human right, and the need for informed, empowered and committed citizens to have a participatory, inclusive and democratic agenda, IFLA volunteered to be part of the Civil Society team compiling all contributions and writing the final declaration.Civil Society Declaration

In the afternoon, the proposed mechanism/modality of civil society participation in the Forum of the Countries of Latin America and the Caribbean on Sustainable Development was reviewed, with very engaging discussions that will shape the future of Civil Society participation in LAC regional forums.

We look forward to continuing engaging with fellow Civil Society representatives after the official opening of the Forum that takes place today!

Civil Society Meetings

Find out more about IFLA’s work on libraries and development, the Development and Access to Information (DA2I) report, and follow us during the event on Twitter (@IFLA and @IFLA_Lib4Dev, and Facebook).

Use hashtags #ForoALC2030, #ForumLAC2030, #DA2I, and #Lib4Dev to stay tuned!

Researcher Beware: Being Constructive About Open Science

A recent infographic about text and data mining used the image of, well, mining to illustrate some of the key statistics about its use today. While not so many researchers in Europe are making use of it for now, there’s a broad interest in starting, given its strong potential to accelerate innovation and new insights.

This chimes with an argument long promoted by the library sector – that we need a clear and simple copyright exception, in order to ensure that there are no legal barriers to mining something you already own or to which you have legal access.

However, the infographic does not just focus on statistics. Right at the bottom of this mine, there is some toxic waste, and talk of challenges and risks. This, combined with the mining metaphor as a whole (as a contact in Brussels has pointed out), gives the impression that TDM – arguably one of the most exciting opportunities for scientific progress, is somehow dark, dirty, and not something you would want to get involved in.

Subsequently, we have seen the rise of the Coalition for Responsible Sharing, a coalition of publishers working to cut back on the sharing of the wrong versions of academic articles through a popular platform among researchers, ResearchGate.

Setting aside questions about the risks posed to other, non-commercial sites where articles are posted and shared – a particularly relevant issue in Europe right now – the name chosen for this group is perhaps telling.

That it should be considered ‘irresponsible’ for authors to share the wrong version of their work, rather than just a mistake, again takes the step of saying that a key driver of future scientific progress – collaboration and exchange between peers – is again something risky and uncertain. That words – responsible sharing – which are more redolent of a public health campaign than of science are used is telling.

Sharing, and mining, are both highly promising avenues for the future development of science, as well as areas where libraries are actively supporting progress (while of course respecting copyright). Rather than seeking to create doubt, fear or scepticism, all should be joining together to ensure the most rapid possible progress.