Tag Archives: HLPF2019

What Makes Libraries Unique in Achieving… SDG 16

DA2I means engaged citizens, informed societies, and better governance The fifth Sustainable Development Goal under review at the 2019 High Level Political Forum is SDG 16 – peace, justice and strong institutions.

It is certainly one of the broader goals, covering promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

Crucially, it’s also the SDG that refers to the importance of access to information. IFLA has of course placed a major emphasis on this goal, promoting access as necessary for progress in so many other areas.

But how to promote the libraries to people – and in particular decision-makers – who care about peaceful, fair and well-governed societies? Here are three arguments for why libraries are unique in achieving SDG16:

  • Because democracy depends on informed societies: SDG 16 focuses strongly on the importance of giving citizens the possibility to participate in decision-making. To do this, and so build a successful and sustainable democracy, people need to have a strong knowledge of current issues and the choices that any society faces. Libraries are ideal places for people to engage in civic life, and to learn about and discuss key subjects.
  • Because open government is about more than just a website: there is growing acceptance of the value of transparency as a means of fighting corruption and ensuring accountability. Yet simply creating websites or apps, or passing laws will not make a difference if no-one is using them. There is a real need to give people the encouragement and the skills to make the most of these. Libraries have both an expertise in helping people make the most of information, and increasingly are supporting open government initiatives explicitly.
  • Because the best decisions are based on the best information: people who are taking decisions, both in government and parliaments rely on the best possible evidence and support in order to get things right. This matters, as the choices they make may well affect millions of citizens. Government and parliamentary libraries play an essential role in ensuring that those in power can access the latest research and ideas, and to do the best by their citizens.

For more information, please see the chapter on SDG16 in the 2019 Development and Access to Information (DA2I) Report by Dorothy Gordon, Chair of the Intergovernmental Committee of UNESCO’s Information for All Programme.

What Makes Libraries Unique in Achieving… SDG13

DA2I means understanding how to address climate change, from the individual to the global levelsThe fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) up for review at the 2019 High Level Political Forum is SDG13 – Climate Action.

It underlines the need to take urgent action to tackle climate change and its impacts, with progress needed from the planetary to the individual levels. This is perhaps the clearest example of an issue that requires a truly global approach, as well as the one that poses the most obvious threat to the future of humanity.

Within the library field, the green library movement has for years promoted the contribution that our institutions can make to reducing their own impact on the environment, as well as promoting more sustainable behaviour elsewhere – see our article “Sustainability is Libraries’ Business” on this topic, already translated into seven languages.

But how to explain this role effectively to politicians? Here are three arguments why libraries are unique in achieving SDG13:

  • Because we need research at the global level: the first step in tackling the climate crisis is to understand it. Research collaboration between experts around the world has helped show what is happening, and how this is already impacting lives in different parts of the world. This effort needs to continue, as does sharing of practices on how to mitigate this. Libraries are essential to support this research, including by facilitating sharing across borders, and promoting open access.
  • Because everyone has a role to play: SDG13 underlines the role that individual behaviour change will play. In all countries, there will be need to be more efficient and less wasteful in the way we live our lives. Libraries have a unique reach into their communities, and can act not only as examples to their users by adopting sustainable practices, but can also be an access point for wider information about how to live more greenly.
  • Because the sharing economy helps reduce consumption: a key driver of climate change is over-consumption of manufactured goods. Yet it is not efficient for everyone to have one of everything, for example tools or even household appliances. Libraries are an early example of the sharing economy, with a focus on books, but are not lending out other items which people would otherwise need to buy. In this way, they limit the need to produce new goods, and so create further emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

For more, see the chapter on SDG13 in the 2019 Development and Access to Information (DA2I) Report by Karl Falkenberg.  

What Makes Libraries Unique in Achieving… SDG10

DA2I means giving everyone the opportunity and skills to use knowledge to improve their livesSustainable Development Goal 4 is the third of the SDGs on the agenda at the 2019 High Level Political forum.

It focuses on reducing inequality within and among countries, recognising not only that individuals have a right to be treated equitably, but also that this contributes to sustainable development in general.

Libraries themselves have a strong commitment to equity. As institutions open for all, they welcome everyone, and many have a specific role to help those most at risk of marginalisation. This is important, given the importance of access to information for development .

But how to make the case for the unique role of libraries in reducing inequalities? Here are three ideas:

  • Because access to information, education and culture is a human right: all countries, through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent conventions, have committed to giving everyone the possibility to access information, get an education, and take part in the cultural life of the community. Libraries provide an excellent way of doing this, and so allowing countries to comply with international law.
  • Because information poverty reinforces income poverty: when people lack access to information, they are not able to take the best decisions, or even to access programmes and projects which could help them escape poverty. They then risk falling deeper into trouble, while others succeed. Libraries provide a means of combatting information poverty, by ensuring that income, social status or other factors are not a barrier.
  • Because providing a service for all matters: programmes targeted at specific groups play an important role in combatting inequality. Nonetheless, by offering a service to some and not others, such efforts can reinforce the idea of being different or apart, which may discourage some. Public libraries have a mission to be universal – i.e. to serve everyone – meaning that the support they offer does not come with the risk of underlining difference.

For more see the chapter on SDG 10 in the 2019 Development and Access to Information (DA2I) Report by Professor Tim Unwin, UNESCO Chair on ICT for Development.

What Makes Libraries Unique in Achieving… SDG 8

DA2I means being able to find – and seize – new opportunities for work and entrepreneurshipSustainable Development Goal 8 is the second of the SDGs to be explored this year. It focuses on promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Through their work to provide access to information in communities, including to some of their most vulnerable members, libraries can be a gateway to opportunity. Both indirectly – through promoting inclusion and wellbeing – and directly through training and job-search support – our institutions can make a real contribution to delivering on SDG 8.

Labour and employment ministries therefore have an interest in effective libraries.

But what arguments can you use to convince them?

Here are three ideas showing why libraries have a unique role in achieving SDG 8:

  • Because employment schemes only work if people know about them: like any market, the job market only works when people know about the opportunities out there. Yet half the world’s population does not have internet access or aren’t confident online. Libraries are not only places where people can connect, but also can receive support and guidance on where to find possibilities to help them find jobs.
  • Because those who need support most can be the hardest to reach: for many, going to a job centre is associated with stigma. Others, especially those from marginalised groups, feel uneasy going into official buildings, or even are not entitled to formal support. Libraries are often seen differently, with people readier to use them. As such, they can provide an excellent place to provide services to many of the most vulnerable in society.
  • Because skills matter: developing new and more advanced skills is a necessity for everyone, not only in order to respond to technological and economic change, but also to find better quality, more fulfilling work. Yet those who have left school risk can risk struggling to reconnect to education. Libraries not only offer training themselves, but can be a gateway to other forms of adult and non-formal education.

For more see the chapter on SDG 8 in the 2019 Development and Access to Information (DA2I) Report by Stefania Lapolla Cantoni, Researcher at cetic.br.

What Makes Libraries Unique in Achieving… SDG 4

This is the first of a series of blogs for the 2019 High Level Political Forum, looking at the different SDGs in focus this year.

Sustainable Development Goal 4DA2I means being able to learn, grow and develop, wherever you are, whatever your age is the first of the SDGs to be explored this year. It focuses on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

For many libraries – not least school and university ones – it is the basis for all of their work, from story time to advanced information literacy. Libraries play a vital role, either within institutions, or in complement to them.

But how to explain this role to policy-makers and others?

Here are three ideas for arguments that you can use to show why libraries are unique in achieving SDG4:

1) Because literacy is a gateway to learning: reading a blog like this, it can be difficult to imagine what it’s like not to be literate. Without literacy, so many means of learning, earning, and accessing information are closed. Libraries have a very strong track record in this area, through supporting literacy (even from the youngest age) and encouraging a love of reading which has proven impacts on overall academic performance.

2) Because learning doesn’t stop when you leave school: while basic education is an essential step, everyone needs to keep on learning throughout their lives. Changes in the wider world may force them to find a new job or adapt to new technologies. Changes in their own lives mean that their needs and priorities change. Libraries provide a place where anyone, at any age, can learn for themselves, and often get involved in or access wider training opportunities.

3) Because spaces matter: the internet has opened up great new possibilities for people to access learning, with new content and applications developed all the time. Yet it is undeniable that people also benefit from having dedicated spaces and staff to help them develop new skills. Libraries are ideal spaces for this, given their historic focus on popular education, and their familiarity to communities.

For more see the chapter on SDG4 in the 2019 Development and Access to Information Report (DA2I) by Dr Katarina Popovic, Secretary-General of the International Council on Adult Education (ICAE).