Tag Archives: SDG Action Week

Building Your Evidence Base Across the SDGs

Today marks the beginning of SDG Action Week, a celebration of the work currently taking place to deliver on the Global Goals, and an opportunity to reflect on what more needs to be done.

Clearly, with the consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic, reaching the Sustainable Development Goals seems as challenging as ever, as highlighted in the Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers report earlier this week.

The Week will see great ideas being shared on how to ensure an effective response to the pandemic now, and a rapid and equitable recovery afterwards. We have already encouraged libraries to take part in the events, and share their own ideas.

Of course, it’s not just during SDG Action Week that it’s important to share these ideas! Governments are taking decisions related to sustainable development all the time.

In order to ensure that libraries are fully recognised and integrated into policy planning, it is important to have examples and ideas to hand

IFLA already makes two great resources available for this. First of all, the SDG Stories on IFLA’s Library Map of the World provide a growing set of examples. Those who have shared examples there not only help colleagues in their advocacy, but receive profile for their own work.

Secondly, we have a collection of national awareness raising materials, produced by library associations and groups of libraries, illustrating how our institutions are contributing to achieving the SDGs.

It can help to prepare your own list of such stories. This doesn’t need to be formally presented (although of course, it can be powerful if you do!), but even having it ready when preparing meetings, news stories or other events can be useful?

How to go about this?

Sometimes, contributions are clear. Libraries have an obvious and traditional role in supporting literacy (SDG4), connectivity (SDG9 and SDG17), and the safeguarding of heritage (SDG11). There are already lots of great examples on the Library Map of the World about these.

But of course libraries contribute across the board.

In order to help you think about your library, or libraries in your country, here are four ways which – in the case of each of the SDGs – libraries are contributing:

1) How are libraries informing and supporting policy-making? For example, in all of the policy areas across the SDGs, libraries are likely to be supporting research and other efforts to build understanding of the world around us. Within governments, they are helping deliver evidence-based policy making, while those in parliaments are helping legislatures holding those in power to account.

2) How are libraries connecting people with opportunities? Public efforts to support development are often only as effective as the communication about them. Work to promote knowledge of, and access to public benefits, programmes or services can make a real difference, for example through internet access, noticeboards or proactive advice and support for users. This is particular the case for users who are unconnected at home, or unwilling to visit official buildings.

3) How are libraries enabling better decision-making at the individual level? Of course, not all support comes from government sources! For people to make decisions about their own lives and work, there are plenty of other places to find information, both in library collections and on websites accessible at (or thanks to) libraries. Librarians of course do help people develop the skills and confidence to make full use of this information to improve their lives.

4) How are libraries delivering services directly? As highlighted, libraries are involved in directly providing services such as literacy, internet access, access to research or preservation and conservation. Increasingly, there are also programmes supporting other SDGs. But it’s not just about what librarians themselves do! Libraries can also be platforms and facilitators, helping others to deliver programmes that help make change happen – and indeed, this can be a great way of increasing impact!

Below, we set out a grid sharing some ideas for first answers to each of these questions, for each of the SDGs.

Grid showing how libraries contribute to achieving each of the SDGs in different ways


Grid showing how libraries contribute to achieving each of the SDGs in different ways


Grid showing how libraries contribute to achieving each of the SDGs in different ways


Grid showing how libraries contribute to achieving each of the SDGs in different ways

If you are trying to put together your own database of examples to use in your advocacy, we hope these help you to identify where to look! And of course, once you have found your examples, you can use our SDG Storytelling Manual to develop them into full stories!

Knowledge for Development: Libraries and the Global Sustainable Development Report

Image: hourglass shape with image of the sky and earth. Text: Why knowledge is critical for sustainable developmentThe Global Sustainable Development Report was released last week in time for discussions around progress on the United Nations 2030 Agenda at the UN’s General Assembly. The result of a collaboration between experts from different disciplines, from different parts of the world, is arguably the most complete knowledge contribution to work on the SDGs.

It is an effort to make the most of ideas and insights in order to build an understanding of where we stand in the effort to promote sustainable development. Crucially, and in coherence with the SDGs themselves, it aims to look across the board, and identify cross-cutting actions that are necessary to accelerate success.

As the prologue by Gro Harlem Brundtland underlines, it was by bringing together knowledge that it was possible to develop the concept of sustainability in the first place, and put the world on the way to the SDGs. And, as this blog sets out, the new report stresses that the role of knowledge is as great as ever.


Sustainability Insights

Thanks to the variety of perspectives brought by its authors, the report offers insights into the threats and opportunities which will determine whether we achieve the SDGs. Alongside climate change – the subject of the summit that ends today – loss of biodiversity, and increase in both waster and inequalities are particular concerns.

In response, coordinated policies focusing on human capacities and well-being, sustainable and just economies, food systems and nutrition, energy access and decarbonisation, urban and peri-urban development and the global environmental commons.

In all of these areas, as highlighted by IFLA’s Library Map of the World and Development and Access to Information report, libraries have much to contribute.

The Report stresses that underpinning the success of work in these areas will four levers –governance, economic and financial policies, individual and collective action, and science and technology. If used effectively, these can accelerate progress. The key to effectiveness, the authors argue, is having the knowledge and understanding of how our societies are working at all levels:

‘Decision makers need to act based on current knowledge and understanding of the linked human-social-environmental systems at all levels. That knowledge also needs to be more widely available to all countries and actors, motivating innovative coalitions and partnerships for success’.


Knowledge Matters

This emphasis on the importance of knowledge serves to underline the contributions that libraries can make. The need to gather, organise, give access to and apply information is as great as ever.

This is true, first of all, in the research context, where the report underlines concern that academics in developing countries too often cannot access the same range of materials as those in richer countries. This makes them less able to support local development, risking deepening global inequalities.

It also makes it harder to take the findings of research and apply them to real-world situations. As the report suggests, there is a need to intensify the science-policy interface, but this is made more complicated when paywalls stand in the way.

The authors therefore make a clear call on libraries, alongside governments, universities and research consortia, to take additional steps in order to provide open access not only to research, but also to underlying data (Recommendation A15). This, it argues, is a key way of addressing inequalities.

Linked to this, it also calls for efforts to promote cross-border research collaboration between countries in order to support knowledge flows, and suggests that development agencies should invest more in building science and research capacity in beneficiary countries. Libraries, inevitably, are a key part of this.


Among the many reports and papers released around the SDGs – and in particular the discussions at the General Assembly – the Global Sustainable Development Report is to be welcomed for its clear advocacy for the role of knowledge, and those who produce and give access to it.