Tag Archives: sustainable development goals

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. 



Measuring the Impact of Cultural Diversity on Development: how libraries can get involved

Without intercultural dialogue, peace and sustainable development are not possible. The UN World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development (21 May) calls for recognition of the essential role that cultural diversity plays in enabling dialogue, building mutual understanding, and supporting better outcomes for all people.

IFLA has long championed the cross-cutting role of culture in building a better, more peaceful, world. As a member of the #Culture2030Goal Campaign, we have called for the recognition of culture as the fourth pillar of sustainable development. We have further called for a dedicated goal for culture in the post-2030 development framework, see the Statement by the #Culture2030Goal campaign on UNESCO MONDIACULT 2022 for more.

The UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005 Convention) helps policymakers strengthen their commitment to supporting cultural diversity by providing a framework by which these values are transformed into actions.

By monitoring the implementation of this Convention, we can both measure the impact of culture on development in concrete terms and find a wealth of good practice examples that can inspire further initiatives.

For a practical approach to Cultural Diversity Day, this article will introduce the monitoring framework of the 2005 Convention – especially its relationship to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It will highlight how libraries can get involved in reporting. Finally, it will introduce the methodology of an ongoing research project in which IFLA is mapping the role of libraries in the reports of the 2005 Convention, which will provide a clear picture of how libraries help achieve its goals.

Protecting and Promoting Diverse Cultural Expressions

Parties to the 2005 Convention have expressed a commitment to culture, in recognition of its importance for creating a rich, varied world and driving sustainable development.

The Convention provides a framework by which governments can strengthen international cooperation and work towards policy provisions that will protect and promote cultural diversity, as well support the creators, knowledge-holders, and institutions that make and share culture.

The Convention notably established the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD), which provides grants in support of a dynamic cultural sector in developing countries.

Note: the 2022 Call for Applications to the IFCD is currently open! Find out more here: 2022 IFCD Call for Nominations.

Another important aspect of the 2005 Convention is its article 11, which encourages active participation with civil society (including libraries and library associations). This provides a strong base on which to build future cooperation with national authorities who implement the convention and measure its impact.

Find out more: Get Into the 2005 Convention

Measuring Progress

In order to better monitor implementation of the Convention, inform evidence-based policymaking, and align with the UN Agenda 2030, UNESCO introduced a Monitoring Framework in 2015.

This framework is based around four goals, which are drawn from the Convention’s guiding principles:

  1. Support sustainable systems of governance for culture
  2. Achieve a balanced flow of cultural goods and services and increase the mobility of artists and cultural professionals
  3. Integrate culture in sustainable development frameworks
  4. Promote human rights and fundamental freedoms

Within each goal, the Framework determines several areas of monitoring, which are critical themes that support the goal. Each area of monitoring is assigned indicators which can be used to measure success, which are in turn confirmed through corresponding means of verification.

UNESCO 2005 Convention Monitoring Framework (2005 Convention Global Report 2022)

Example from the UNESCO 2005 Convention Monitoring Framework


Note that each goal is specifically linked to corresponding SDGs. Further, each indicator is linked to one or more SDG targets, which directly connect it to specific tasks or outcomes within the SDG framework.

From the above example, policies and measures which promote gender equality in the culture and media sector indicate progress towards the Gender Equality monitoring area. This supports Goal 4 (Promote Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms), which aligns with SDG #4 (Gender Equality).

However, even more specifically, this indicator is linked to SDG targets 5.c, which concerns adapting policies and enforceable legislation to support women and girls, and 5.5, which concerns equal participation and opportunities for leadership.

Why is this framework important?

Evidence-based policymaking is key to successful implementation of the Convention. This framework helps policymakers and other stakeholders better understand how supporting cultural diversity can impact on sustainable development.

For IFLA’s members – looking at the Monitoring Framework is a practical way to envision how the work your library is already doing – or could be doing in the future – aligns with these goals.

To start, could you think of library initiatives that satisfy these indicators? 

  • Policies and measures support diversity of the media (Goal 1)
  • Policies and measures facilitate access to diverse cultural expressions in the digital environment (Goal 1)
  • Operational programmes support the mobility of artists and cultural professionals, notably from developing countries (Goal 2)
  • Policies and measures support equity in the distribution of cultural resources and inclusive access to such resources (Goal 3)
  • Policies and measures promote and protect freedoms of creation and expression and participation in cultural life (Goal 4)

Explore further: Monitoring Framework – UNESCO 2005 Convention (from the 2005 Convention Global Report 2022)

Making your Impact Known

Countries that are party to the 2005 Convention are required to submit a report on their progress once every four years. These are called Quadrennial Periodic Reports, or QPRs.

In 2019, UNESCO reformed the reports to align directly with the Monitoring Framework. This data collections allows UNESCO to take a holistic look at how the world is protecting and promoting diverse cultural expressions, and how this relates directly to sustainable development.

UNESCO’s most recent overview of the state of cultural policy was debuted earlier this year: Re|Shaping Policies for Creativity: 2005 Convention Global Report 2022

Why are QPRs relevant for libraries?

QPRs present an opportunity for libraries and library associations to make their impact directly known to national cultural authorities and beyond.

Since 2019, UNESCO invites civil society stakeholders to participate in reporting with a dedicated Civil Society Organisation form.  This form follows the reporting framework and allows civil society to share information on their initiatives for inclusion in the final national report.

UNESCO reports that 77% of QPRs submitted since 2019 included measures or initiatives undertaken by civil society organisations, so the willingness to include such input is clearly being demonstrated.

To make your impact known, follow these steps:

  1. Find out when your country’s next QPR is due: Periodic Reports
  2. Download the Civil Society Organisation form [download the word document here].
  3. Review the Monitoring Framework and determine relevant measures and initiatives your organisation/institution/ association has implemented in the last four years
  4. Get in touch with your National Point of Contact [list and contact details here], who is responsible for coordinating reporting in your country. Let them know you are completing the Civil Society Organisation form.
  5. Share the completed civil society organisation form with your National Point of Contact roughly six months before the deadline for submission

Coming Up

In September 2022, the UNESCO World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable DevelopmentMONDIACULT 2022 – will bring cultural policymakers and stakeholders from across the world together in Mexico City.

This conference will accelerate the global dialolgue on culture’s role in sustainable development and define immediate and future priorities.

Watch IFLA discuss ways in which libraries fit into these discussions here: ResiliArtxMondiacult 2022  

To prepare for these discussions, IFLA is using insights collected through the 2005 Convention monitoring and reporting scheme to map ways in which libraries are being recognised as contributing to the goals of the Convention – and corresponding sustainable development goals.

There are myriad examples included in this body of information. For example, the 2005 Convention Global Report 2022 already provides some insight:

Goal 1: Supporting sustainable systems of governance for culture

  • “Several countries, including Egypt, Norway, Qatar and Slovakia, have begun extensive work to digitize their national libraries, thereby facilitating access to, and the discoverability of, local cultural content in several languages” (UNESCO, 2022, pg. 107)
  • “National Library for the Disabled [Republic of Korea] increased its membership by 84% in 2021 alone, as it expanded its provision in Braille, voice over and sign language” (UNESCO, 2022, pg. 105)

Goal 2: Achieve a balanced flow of cultural goods and services and increase mobility

  • “China and Niger signed a cultural cooperation agreement to exchange information and expertise in the areas of audiovisual, publishing, libraries and exhibitions” (UNESCO, 2022, pg. 178)

Goal 3: Integrate culture in sustainable development

  • “Developing and developed countries all implement a variety of measures for ensuring access to culture outside of the main urban areas… [for example] mobile libraries and bookstores deployed to stimulate reading (China, Egypt, Iraq).” (UNESCO, 2022, pg. 222)
  • “Given that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the challenge of digital exclusion, it is encouraging to see the reporting of measures aimed at ensuring greater connectivity in libraries across national territories (Argentina, Costa Rica).” (UNESCO, 2022, pg. 222)

IFLA will continue reviewing the body of reports submitted since 2019 to collect quantifiable data on the number of library-related measures and initiatives within each of the Convention’s four objectives. This study with further provide qualifiable data regarding innovative library initiatives that can serve as inspiration for the future.

Stay tuned for more in the lead up to Mondiacult 2022!

For questions or assistance: claire.mcguire@ifla.org

10 Things in Our Common Agenda

 Our Common Agenda is the United Nations’ Secretary-General’s response to the Declaration made by Member States on the UN’s 75th Anniversary in 2020. It marks an important step from defining priorities to defining concrete actions that can strengthen both the UN, and broader efforts to achieve its objectives.

It complements key existing texts, not least the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, both by highlighting areas where there is a particular need for action, and proposing ways of ensuring that countries, together, can promote development more effectively.

The Agenda both has implications for libraries, and creates opportunities to underline how our institutions and profession contribute to global policy goals. As decisions are taken, and more detailed plans are put in place, there should be chances to contribute experience and perspectives, and seek recognition for our work.

IFLA has produced a briefing on Our Common Agenda that sets out in more detail the ideas and issues it covers. In this blog, we highlight ten key points that are relevant to libraries. You can draw on these points in your own engagement with local UN offices, or even in your advocacy, given how much support the Agenda offers for many library priorities:

 1) Renewing the social contract: Our Common Agenda emphasises the idea of a new social contract – a set of shared rules and values that provide a basis for government, and for relations between members of society. This, the report argues, needs to be founded on respect for rights (and access to justice), and on solidarity between the more and less fortunate. Crucially, such a social contract should offer a basis for quality public services.

Arguably, libraries (public and national libraries in particular) are part of such a social contract, provided by governments in order to provide opportunities for all to realise their rights, and their potential.

2) Combatting the infodemic: The report makes addressing the infodemic – the spread of misinformation – into a major priority, not just as concerns health, but across the board. It calls for steps both to ensure stronger scientific inputs into policy making, but also a code of conduct on the integrity of public information. There is blunt language about politicians and others who spread false information, with the Secretary General calling for it to be clear that it is wrong to lie.

For libraries, a greater focus on quality information and use of evidence vindicates the role of our profession, and will hopefully create new opportunities to ensure that this is recognised by decision-makers.

3) Universal connectivity: the Secretary General has also made universal internet connectivity a key part of Our Common Agenda, recognising how vital this is both for access to public services, and to wider economic, social and cultural opportunities. Connecting schools represents a particular priority, with more effective digital taxation seen as a way of paying for it.

Libraries have a long-standing, recognised role in supporting public access to the internet, as a stepping stone towards private access, or as a complement to it. It will be important to work to ensure that libraries are included in initiatives taking place under this heading.

4) Protecting rights, online and off: the report reiterates how central respect for human rights should be to all that governments do, echoing the 2030 Agenda. In particular, it calls for a Global Digital Compact, in order to find solutions to the challenges created by the behaviour of private and public actors alike. In particular, it warns about the impact of internet shutdowns, as well as more targeted blocking or filtering of content.

The need for the internet to work in support of human rights is a long-standing priority for libraries, and we bring important insights and perspectives. Libraries can also be key players in more community-based initiatives around information and connectivity, such as community networks or local archives.  

5) Thinking to the future: a large segment of the report is dedicated to making the future more present in policy discussions taking place today. One way of doing this is through intensifying work to draw on evidence and expert viewpoints in order to identify what the years to come could look like. In addition to doing this more at the UN itself, Our Common Agenda also advocates for boosting listening exercises, as well as those focused on envisioning the future.

Libraries are not only crucial players in ensuring that decision-makers have the information needed to think about the future, but can be important venues for involving communities in collective reflection. In many cases, public libraries already fulfil this function, giving an opportunity to share good practices and spread them further.

 6) Literacy matters: a further step in order better to integrate the future into present planning is by focusing on children, and giving everyone a better start in life. A key element of this is universal basic literacy, with it clear that many schools still don’t have the resources needed to provide this, even if children are able to attend. The answer will need to be a new drive to deliver skills, including through better focusing of aid budgets.

Globally, libraries have a key role in promoting literacy, both within schools and wider communities, that is often recognised in national literacy and reading strategies. It will be important now both to ensure that this is reflected at the global level, and to see how we can increase the impact of libraries’ work in this area.

7) A universal entitlement to lifelong learning: Our Common Agenda’s emphasis on education is not limited to children, but also recognises the situation and needs of adults faced with a world and employment market for which their previous education and experience may not have prepared them. Yet lifelong learning is too often under-supported compared with other policy areas – this needs to be corrected if everyone is to be able to play their part in sustainable development.

Libraries are both providers of, and portals to lifelong learning opportunities. We have a strong interest then both in promoting the idea of a universal entitlement as a goal, and contributing to efforts to define how it is delivered.  

 8) A more networked multilateralism: Our Common Agenda underlines that for success in delivering the goals of the United Nations, not least the Sustainable Development Goals, a full range of actors needs to be involved, including business, academics and civil society. Crucially, development cannot just be a top-down thing, but needs to mobilise different strengths and capabilities.

Beyond the work of library associations in engaging with discussions around implementation of the SDGs, this priority may support efforts to promote models of SDG delivery that mobilise libraries more effectively, drawing on their strengths in terms of collections, spaces and staff.

 9) Dedicated focal points for civil society: As part of the drive to ensure stronger participation of different stakeholders in delivering on policy goals, Our Common Agenda includes proposed steps to make it easier for civil society organisations to engage with UN agencies. A key one is the suggestion to name dedicated focal points who can organise opportunities to input, and make it easier to find out how to get involved.

For library associations, as civil society organisations, this development would be a helpful one, especially in more specialised or regional UN agencies. Once these are identified, it will be possible to focus advocacy more effectively, through understanding better what is possible.

10) The role of parliaments and local and regional governments: as part of its emphasis on the need to work with a wider range of stakeholders, the report highlights in particular the need to work more with Parliaments and regional governments, both of which have key roles, respectively, in designing and scrutinising policy, and in taking many of the actions needed to achieve development.

Libraries and research services have a particularly essential role in helping parliaments to do their jobs, while local and regional governments often have libraries under their direct responsibility, making them more aware of what our institutions can achieve. The focus on parliaments and local and regional governments offers new possibilities to demonstrate, and advocate for, the importance of libraries.

Working with the SDGs, Working with Politicians: Interview with the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia

Engaging with the UN Sustainable Development Goals opens up possibilities for libraries to create connections with United Nations agencies, while focusing initiatives on the individual topics they cover can help build support for the work of our institutions across governments, among politicians.

We talked with Maia Simonishvili, from the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia, to find out about her institution’s experience.


1. How are libraries viewed by politicians in Georgia in general?

Actually, we can describe relations between libraries and politicians as normal for today. They express interest in supporting the development of libraries. For example, the undergoing reconstruction process of the buildings of the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia is funded by government bodies. These buildings are part of the cultural heritage of the city. The same might be said about the technical equipment, software, and new printed collections.  We don’t have private libraries in Georgia, and regional libraries are funded by their municipality. Their services are free of charge, our services are also free of charge for all readers and event organizers. We are proud we serve all citizens equally and we perceive ourselves as real democratic organizations. On the other side, financial circumstances are not always the best, and more support would be better, of course.

2. How did you get the idea to open an SDG library? 

We are glad to collaborate with different cultural and educational institutions as well as government agencies.  We are very thankful to Dr. Sabine Machl, UN Resident Coordinator in Georgia for her support.

Some months ago, Mrs. Mariam Gamezardashvili,  a representative of the Education and International Development Academy offered us to work towards the opening of a new book corner funded by the UN Georgia. In doing this, we have focused on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and we have had all these goals in mind while creating a new collection.

3. What did you do around the opening of this?

We choose international manuals and bestsellers in different fields to create a multifaceted collection. The UN Georgia gifted us not only books but needed equipment for the section.  Given the pandemic situation, we had very few public events this year, and the opening event of the SDG library was very joyful for us and our readers. Members of the  Youth Parliament of the Students in Georgia attended the opening and we had an interesting conversation with Dr. Sabine Machl. What is more joyful, we will have further collaboration to develop new programs, and are already seeing donations of materials to the library, for example from the Association of Georgian Alumni of Swiss Universities, via the Swiss Embassy to Georgia.

4. What future plans do you have for it?

I suppose the word “sustainable” was never so meaningful as today. We see how the pandemic is testing the sustainability of our world and all countries at this time. Even our human nature is examined by these events, not only our urban and civic institutions.

On the other side, it is a really good example of why governments and citizens have to take more actions to establish stronger civil societies and structures.

To this end, we are planning to have seminars and programs for our readers. For example, seminars to raise awareness of basic human rights are already planned. Rights to health, women’s rights, and inclusivity will also be covered in our meetings. Lectures for professional development skills, among them skills for startups and project writing will be free for our readers.

Now we are preparing the course in basic programming skills as an online programme. We aim to have different programs that include different goals of sustainable development.

You know, people perceive the term SDG as something too official sometimes – we will try to make it more lively and understandable in the everyday life of citizens.

In fact, the SDG’s areas of focus are familiar to the public. For example, Zero Hunger (SDG1) is  certainly familiar. It is worth mentioning that The Equilibrium, a movement of the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia, works not only for the renewal of libraries but according to its means, delivers food and clothing to underprivileged citizens.

During the first wave lockdown of the Pandemic, Mr. Giorgi Kekelidze, General Director of the Library was working to help older people who didn’t have any possibility to go out and buy products. Of course, we have to mention that we need improvement of social programs in general in the future.

Another SDG is Quality Education (SDG4). The Movement is helping some students to obtain funding for their equipment or their study.  We have to look at SDG goals as ideas for new development programs.

5. What other opportunities have you had to engage with politicians in the work of libraries?

We are working hard to revive regional libraries. You know, we might bring new books and equipment, but salaries and annual budgets are paid by different regional municipalities and it has to be foreseen in their budget too. We have city municipal libraries and new modern media libraries in the city; we have three of them now. We are working with them when they need some support from us, for example, training, information about new standards, IFLA standards, and recommendations, etc.

6. What works well in getting politicians to become more interested and supportive of libraries?

You know, libraries play a crucial role in supporting democracy and ensuring equitable access to information. Libraries are the most democratic places in every country because they are open to all citizens and guests, serve multicultural societies, and ensure their access to information. They have to defend and store banned literature for generations in spite of today’s political views,  they have to improve the lives of underprivileged members, so democracy is an inbuilt characteristic of the library.

We are open to all political parties and institutions, who want to host events or attend them. The National Parliamentary Library of Georgia welcomes any guests, who play an important part in developing and supporting the independence of Georgian Statehood. We are one of the oldest and newest countries at the same time, which explains some turbulent events in the country. Our library has hosted many political events, discussions, presentations with the participation of all political sides.

7. What impact has this engagement had so far?

The pandemic made it clear that we need stronger digital services to reach our full audience. For example,  The National Parliamentary Library of Georgia has to defend its collections for further generations by the law. This time, our library received some financial support from the Parliament to implement needed software to add bar codes to printed materials and to make the lives of our readers easier.

On the other side, it is the space where members of different “bubbles” create the whole society.  Actually, all political representatives have been readers of our library. We also have had fruitful engagements with different embassies; their audiences are our readers as well. We welcome events with the participation of emigrants, parties, guests, who share their creativity and knowledge with each other. It is the place, where some members of our society meet each other for the first time.

We are always happy to see such events, which make their lives more versatile and joyful.  In the last few years, our audience has grown faster with different events for all kinds of readers.  We hope very much that the end of the pandemic will be celebrated with the whole library audience.

Copyright and Sustainable Development – Part 2: Applying the logic of sustainability to copyright

As highlighted in the first part of this blog, the United Nations 2030 Agenda represents a new approach to overall development policy.

That set out how the Agenda focuses on the full range of policy areas and countries (rather than a subset of each), and the interconnections between them. This stands in contrast to the Millennium Development Goals that ran from 2000 to 2015, underlining how every part of government, in every part of the world, has a responsibility to act. This of course includes copyright policy-makers.

In addition to this broader policy and geographical focus, the 2030 Agenda also emphasises the importance of cross-cutting principles in policy-making. Two examples of these are the importance of sustainability itself, and on the right of everyone to be able to fulfil their potential.

This second part therefore focuses on how these principles can apply in the making of copyright policy.

Sustainability: acting now, without prejudicing the future

At the heart of the idea of sustainability is the notion that the way we live today should not compromise the way we live tomorrow. It is most readily applied to the environmental field, where excessive use of resources now risks meaning that future generations live in a poorer, more polluted world.

Similar ideas apply in the economic and social fields. Economic expansion can be unsustainable, while allowing inequalities to deepen causes rifts which threaten social cohesion, as well as being associated with lost capacity to produce overall.

How does this apply to copyright? One side of the argument is that it is the protection that copyright provides that enables future creativity to take place. Without it, investments cannot be recouped, and new projects cannot be launched. When a company produces (publishes) a wider range of materials, the greater success of one (a bestseller) may help compensate for the fact that others will do less well.

At the same time, there is also the fact that the future health of the creative industries depends on there being a literate population, interested and engaged in buying what they have to offer. This, comes from having a strong education system with teachers well placed to develop skills among students, as well as institutions such as libraries which can instil a love of books and reading.

Similarly, the possibility to produce innovation tomorrow depends on students and researchers being able to access knowledge and work together today. This is particularly the case in countries currently experiencing lower levels of development, often accompanied by low literacy and innovation outputs.

Copyright reforms can support this all, freeing up teachers to use materials more freely, and enabling libraries to support them, as well as researchers, effectively.

As such, it is important, when developing copyright policies – including at WIPO – to ensure that the generation of additional revenues in order to recoup financial investments in creative content does not reduce the investment in the future represented by education and research.

The capabilities approach: delivering on the right to access information

Another concept close to the heart of the 2030 Agenda is that of the right of every individual to the capabilities necessary for development. Based on the thinking of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, this looks at whether people have the means to realise their own well-being, rather than simply having rights but no means of acting on them.

Arguably, part of this is the possibility for everyone to access the information that they need to improve their own situation, be it to gain new knowledge or skills, for health, or in order to innovate.

Schools, research institutions, libraries, archives, and museums have a key role here, turning the broad right of access to information into something actionable. Libraries indeed often have a mandate to serve everyone, providing possibilities for all, regardless of wealth, social status or other characteristics.

For example, libraries and schools which are enabled under copyright to carry out their work will be better able to serve their communities, including at distance. In turn, members of communities are better placed to take decisions, on their own behalf and on behalf of those around them.

While this access may not always be as simple as making a direct purchase of a book or other resource, it does help to ensure that no-one need be excluded from learning or research for want of money.

Crucially, for policy-makers, the challenge is to ensure that decisions taken around copyright law do not lead to doors being closed for individuals to access the information that can help them achieve their own well-being.


These two blogs have looked, from two different angles, at how the UN 2030 Agenda can feed into the way discussions about copyright, and in particular exceptions and limitations, are approached at WIPO.

As the first underlined, the breadth of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the interconnections between them, mean that not only do copyright policy-makers have a duty to act, but in doing so, they need to consider consequences on progress across the Agenda.

The second explored how cross-cutting ideas behind the Goals – in particular of sustainability itself, and the capabilities approach – are also relevant to the way we design copyright policies.

Both, hopefully, offer a fresh perspective on why balance matters in copyright, and what we need to bear in mind when working out what this looks like.

Copyright and Sustainable Development – Part 1: How a balanced copyright framework supports delivery of the 2030 Agenda

The United Nations 2030 Agenda and its 17 the Sustainable Development Goals set out a comprehensive policy roadmap towards a new, more sustainable model of development. It is designed to steer not only the work of the United Nations and its agencies, but also those of governments, and of all other stakeholders.

In contrast to the Millennium Development Goals that preceded it, the 2030 Agenda does not just focus on a sub-set of policy areas – the tasks of any one single ministry or agency – but on all of them.

Moreover, it highlights how essential it is to consider interlinkages – how actions taken in any one area may affect the achievement of policy goals elsewhere, for better or for worse.

This implies a responsibility. When taking decisions, broader consequences need to be taken into account.

The Agenda is also global, rather than concentrated only on the developing world, recognising the fact that the fates of countries are just as interlinked as different policy areas. This is not only clear in areas such as climate change or pandemic health, but also in wider questions of trade or tax policies.

As such, decisions about copyright, such as those discussed at the World Intellectual Property Organisation, should be based on consideration of the potential impacts on policy outcomes across the board, not just in any one single area.

Moreover, they should also reflect the interconnected nature of the world, avoiding the costs of misalignment and realising the potential of stronger coordination.

This blog – the first part of two – therefore looks at the different goals on which copyright policy decisions may have an impact, and in particular where balance between rights and exceptions (or even setting elements of copyright aside through open licensing) is important. The second part then considers how some of the cross-cutting themes present in the 2030 Agenda as a whole could apply in the way that we think about copyright in general.

Innovation (SDG9): perhaps the most obvious area where copyright – and intellectual property – is seen as having an effect is around the promotion of innovation. Clearly, innovation has a vital role. At its best, it offers new ways of doing things, requiring fewer resources. It is also essential to come up with solutions to new challenges (not least COVID).

The argument for intellectual property rights is that they enable investment in innovation by creating a means of ensuring a return. In other words, if someone cannot make money from inventing or creating things, they may not be able to do it in the first place.

However, as the global shift towards open science underlines, downstream innovation – in terms of new products or ways of doing things – can in fact benefit from greater openness upstream. When the sharing of research findings and data is restricted or slowed, so too is the pace of new discovery, be it for products, or for responding to grand challenges such as climate change or pandemics.

Education and Skills (SDG4, 8): another area where there is already focus on the role of copyright is in access to education. There are strong efforts to argue that easier possibilities to licence content, as well as the development of local copyright industries, will overcome inequities faced.

At the same time, teachers, both in the formal and informal/non-formal education systems often rely not on specifically created educational outputs, but rather materials from everyday life that are freely available online in order to help students learn. The rise of the open educational resources movement is creating new possibilities for teachers themselves to create and share tools among peers.

Such uses do not imply any loss of sales, while educators are better able to focus on instruction when they benefit from rules that do not add complexity or cost. Crucially, they do contribute to improved educational outcomes, in turn supporting wider economic development and so the market for copyrighted products.

Sustainable Consumption (SDG12): an area less frequently talked about, but where copyright law could contribute, is around reducing waste. In particular, there has been the  rise of calls for a ‘right to repair’, focussing on the value of making it easier to fix products, without needing to risk infringing copyright, for example through correcting software, or even accessing repair manuals. In short, making it easier to repair goods is likely to give them a longer life, reducing the demand for new production.

Open Government (SDG16): the SDGs emphasise the importance of openness and transparency in government as a means of enabling citizen participation and improving outcomes. A central pillar of this is the open publishing of public sector information, from legal texts to budgets and beyond.

This is also an area for copyright, given that unless exempted, government texts too are covered. When such texts or databases are be kept behind paywalls, citizens face barriers – insurmountable for some – to exercise their right to democratic participation.

Research Cooperation (SDG17): in addition to the emphasis on innovation in SDG9, SDG17 focuses on partnerships for the goals, and in particular the possibility for research and knowledge cooperation across borders.

While specific agreements to transfer IP, or to give access to copyrighted materials to institutions in developing countries may help, they are necessarily narrow, and risk leaving many left out, also then limiting scope for cooperation. Broader possibilities to share materials in the context of cross-border research, without the uncertainty that unaligned copyright laws create, would expand the scope for new collaborations.

Digital Inclusion (SDG5, 9, 17): the 2030 Agenda recognises the importance of technology as an enabler of development, not just in dedicated targets concerning connectivity, but also when looking at data around usage. Clearly, an important determinant of how useful being online is to someone is whether they are able to access digital content and services.

Among the varieties of content available, online learning is a clear example, as is the possibility to access the collections of libraries and museums. During the pandemic, indeed, digital access has been the only means of doing this for many who cannot afford to buy content directly. Copyright laws can have a determining impact on the possibilities that providers and users have to benefit from these possibilities.

Safeguarding Cultural Heritage (SDG11): finally, the SDGs highlight the importance of safeguarding cultural heritage. This is of course a core function of libraries, archives and museums, which increasingly use digital technologies in order to preserve materials for the future.

However, digital preservation involves copying, and so copyright itself. Unless there are possibilities in law to make copies, the preservation decisions of these institutions are likely to be guided more by what implies least risk or least cost, rather than what is most important.


These represent just some areas where the way in which governments strike a balance in copyright, at the national and international levels, can make a difference to development outcomes. Indeed, the SDGs arguably provide a structure, a checklist even, for thinking through the merits of the decisions that are taken.

In part 2, we turn away from individual SDGs, and to a couple of the principles that underpin the entire 2030 Agenda, notably sustainability and the right to development.

The 10-Minute International Librarian #49: Think about setting up an SDG Book Club

Books – and so the libraries that provide equitable access to them – can be a great way of discovering and engaging with new ideas.

This is particular the case for children, given the ability of books to open new horizons and raise new questions about key issues.

And are no sets of issues more critical for the future than the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDG Book Club brings together the UN, publishers, libraries and booksellers in order to promote a list of books in all six UN languages, for each of the 17 SDGs.

They provide a starting point for teachers, librarians and parents in helping young people to think about the world.

But you don’t just have to rely on the official selection!

For our 49th 10-Minute International Librarian exercise, think about setting up an SDG Book Club.

What books can you think of that help get people thinking about the issues in the SDGs, in your language, and ideally which are relevant to your users?

What steps will you need to take to get there? Who can you work with – publishers? Organisations promoting books for young people? UN offices?

There are resources on the SDG Book Club page on the United Nations website, as well as information about how to get your club listed on the UN website.

Share your ideas in the comments below!


This idea relates to the IFLA Strategy! 1.1 Show the power of libraries in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals .

As we publish more ideas, you will be able to view these using the #10MinuteInternationalLibrarian tag on this blog, and of course on IFLA’s Ideas Store! Do also share your ideas in the comments box below.