Tag Archives: UN SDGs

World Habitat Day 2018

World Habitat Day

Urbanisation – the growing share of the world’s population living in cities – is a major feature of the world today. From 55% today, over two thirds of all people are expected to live in major built-up areas by 2050.

Yet urbanisation brings its challenges. Congestion, waste management, broken and re-formed social relationships, even loneliness. The United Nations and its members recognised the need to act in 2015 when they created Sustainable Development Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities, as well as when they agreed the whole New Urban Agenda.

The raises the question – how to make cities liveable. And indeed, how to make sure that cities are communities, with – as the word suggests – something in common between their inhabitants? Libraries can help in at least three ways.


Common Spaces

A first key contribution is in the space that libraries offer. As people live more and more of their lives online, there are fewer obvious reasons to come together in a single space. Yet this does not mean it is less necessary.

Indeed, the possibility to do things together – even go online – remains attractive. A police station, hospital or school does not offer this, nor – at least for people on low incomes – do private venues.

Libraries fill an important gap here, offering a neutral, welcoming space to all members of the community. Indeed, SDG 11.7 underlines this point, setting the following target: ‘by 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities’. Similar language appears in Paragraph 13(c) of the Quito Declaration that launched the New Urban Agenda.


Common Opportunities

A second ingredient of a successful community is a feeling that everyone has their place there. Everyone should be able to access to same services, and have, as far as possible, equal chances of fulfilling their ambitions.

Having access to information – as well as the rights and skills to use it – is a key to this, giving the possibility to learn, find work, and develop both personally and professionally. SDG 11.1 underlines that Member States should, ‘by 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services…’. Again, the Quito Declaration makes the same point.

Once again, libraries help. Internet access on its own can be essential in countries that are less well off. But so too is the support – both formal and informal – provided by dedicated library staff, the access to books subject to copyright, and the fact – as highlighted above – that libraries offer a welcoming space.


Common Heritage

The power of a sense of a shared past is also important, especially at times of rapid change. While this may often be overlooked in favour of interventions with more immediate impact – health, policing, renovations, it is a key part of the mix of actions that help build communities.

 Once again, this is an issue recognised by the UN, which, in SDG 11.4, calls on Member States to ‘Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage’. IFLA itself has underlined this point in a statement. Paragraph 125 of the Quito Declaration underlines:  ‘We will support the leveraging of cultural heritage for sustainable urban development and recognize its role in stimulating participation and responsibility’.

This is not just a question of the ancient past. As highlighted in IFLA’s article for World Peace Day, libraries are also helping people to recognise the events of the more recent past – even traumatic ones – and through activities such as community archiving, are helping to bring people together.



It is not by accident that the SDGs talk about cities and communities. People need both in order to benefit from a sense of wellbeing. Where they are properly supported, libraries make this happen.

Words of the SDGs: Sustainability

As highlighted in our previous blogs about #WordsOfTheSDGs, the vocabulary that marks discussion on the UN’s 2030 Agenda if often obscure or jargonistic.

A shared understanding of what these words mean does of course help governments and others communicate with each other in the corridors and meeting rooms of the United Nations. A key task for libraries, in getting into advocacy around the Sustainable Development Goals, is to ‘join the club’, to become familiar with these terms, and use them.

To end this series of blogs, we will tackle ‘Sustainability’. This is perhaps one of the most central ideas behind the 2030 Agenda, not least as it appears, more or less, in the name of the SDGs. It is also familiar from daily life within own institutions – ts a particular activity sustainable? A strategy?


The word is particularly charged in the UN context. Already in 1992 at the time of the original Rio Earth Summit, the Brundtland Report opened a new era of thinking about development at the global level.

This thinking took lessons not only from the environmental movement, but also new ways of thinking about economic and social policies. In bringing these elements together, it called for a way of living today that would not risk or limit the ability of future generations to do the same.

Within this, the idea of three ‘pillars’ of sustainable development remain. These are environmental (are we leaving enough resources – from natural resources to things like air or a favourable climate – for those to come), economic (are we putting tomorrow’s economic wellbeing at risk?) and social (are conditions within society sufficient to ensure cohesion).

It is worth noting some debate about the difference between sustainable development and sustainability. Some argue that true sustainability may need to come at the cost of development (i.e. growth). Others (including this blog) take ‘development’ in this context to mean the broad set of policies and actions taken by governments and others which can impact sustainability.

So how does this apply in the library context? This blog highlights how libraries contribute to sustainability in its three dimensions.

Libraries and Economic Development

There are many concerns today about whether we can expect continued growth in income per person, especially with a rising population, or even if this is desirable.

Yet for countries where many people are still in poverty, the idea of giving up on growth – and what this makes possible in terms of accessing healthcare or education – is absurd.

Fortunately, the key underlying factor behind growth is productivity. How can we get more out of the resources (both human labour, and physical resources) that we already have? This increases thanks to finding new and more efficient ways of doing things. In short, innovation.

This is an area where libraries have something to add. Ready access to research and other materials, as provided by libraries, can stimulate and support research. New efforts to connect collections, as well as new techniques for making use of them, promises a lot for science.

The result is just the new products, processes and ways of doing things that allow people to produce and earn more. Without libraries, research is weaker. As such, sustainable economic development relies extensively on libraries.

Libraries and Social Development

Social development is a question of maintaining cohesion – this is key to promoting cooperation and wellbeing.

Societies which are highly unequal risk losing this, with those at the wrong end of the scale resenting those at the other. Similarly, societies which are intolerant risk creating tensions, and missing out on opportunities to renew and refresh.

Equality (in provision of service) and equity (in the results achieved) both help provide for social development. They ensure that everyone has the possibility to move within society, and to feel confident in building networks and contacts. They do not have to feel trapped.

Libraries help with this too, and in one of the most powerful ways – through providing access to information. This opens up possibilities to learn and earn, as well as take better decisions about issues such as health or agriculture. When there is an information gap, there is a risk of a development gap.

Not only are libraries, in most places, a free service, available for all in an area, but they also have specific mandates to reach out to those hardest to help. In this way, no-one need feel excluded, or without the possibility to learn and move ahead, regardless of the initial challenges they may have faced.

Libraries and Environmental Development

Unlike many other sectors, libraries are fortunately not classed among major producers of CO2 or other gases. However, they have a dual role in promoting environmental sustainability.

The first has already been mentioned – the role of libraries in supporting research. As we look to help farmers, manufacturers, transporters and others find new ways of doing things, this will help significantly.

But libraries can also, crucially, act as exemplars. IFLA’s Green Library Award, coordinated by the IFLA Special Interest Group on Environment, Sustainability and Libraries, highlights great examples. Even recently, the nomination of an environmentalist in residence at Toronto Public Libraries highlighted how much attention this is getting internally. We need only to share this role externally.

The same Group is planning further work on education on sustainability at the 2018 World Library and Information Congress too – come along to hear more if you are interested.

Sustainability is therefore a useful term to bring up when advocating for libraries, both in terms of how libraries deliver it, but also how they can become exemplars and teachers for others on the subject.

Happy advocating!






Words of the SDGs: Rights-Based Framework

As the 2018 High Level Political Forum moved towards its conclusion, the focus was more and more on the language in the Ministerial declaration.

The choice (or exclusion) of specific words or terms can seem arcane, but it is a powerful indicator of the model of development that the world’s governments are looking to achieve.

HLPF 2018 Ministerial Declaration

One of the most political concepts was that of a ‘rights-based’ framework. This – and what it means for libraries – is the subject of this blog.

Rights-Based Framework

What Does a Rights-Based Framework Mean?

The rights referred to are human rights – not just those set out in the 1948 Universal Declaration, but also the ones which have been defined subsequently. These include the rights of the child, the right to food, or the rights set out in the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The rights-based framework brings with it a number of the principles associated with human rights in general – indivisibility (you cannot prioritise or pick and choose among rights), interrelatedness (that they overlap and are connected), interdependence (the achievement of one depends on the achievement of others) and universality (everyone benefits).

Moreover, they underline that individuals are rightholders, and entitled to rights. In turn, governments, the international community, NGOs, businesses, and other human beings should respect and promote them. In some cases – in particular where they have been adopted by specific additional measures – these rights are legally enforceable, although this is not the case for all rights, in all countries.

Rights-Based as Opposed to…?

The key moment for the application of these rights to development came in 1986, with the agreement on the Declaration on the Right to Development, agreed by the UN General Assembly. This marked a turning point away from a model focused rather on promoting economic growth, with relatively little regard to the fate of individuals or problems within societies.

It can also be characterised as a deal, with richer states accepting a responsibility to help poorer ones deliver development for their citizens. Developing states in turn accepted an obligation to defend all the human rights (both civil and political, and economic, social and cultural) of their citizens.

This is not a tension that has gone away. Just as some argue that fundamental freedoms (civil and political rights such as freedom of expression, association and religion) are essential for a healthy and prosperous society, others suggest that it is more important to focus on economic and social wellbeing, regardless of limitations on freedom.

By adopting a human-rights based approach, the United Nations made an important step both towards reaffirming the responsibility of the world as a whole to deliver development for all, but also underlining that economic and social progress cannot come at the expense of fundamental freedoms.

Moreover, it sets the achievement of rights as the final goal against which governments will be held accountable. Simply delivering programmes is not enough – there has to be meaningful change. And finally, by referring to human rights, it adds a new political strength to the agenda.

The Link with Libraries

The action of libraries itself can be seen as a way of making of a rights-based framework for development happen. As institutions focused on delivering a number of key individual rights (to access to information, to participate in cultural life, to education), they are a key part of the infrastructure for making good on governments’ commitments.

Often working with a mandate to reach out, in particular, to marginalised groups, they regularly make the additional effort necessary to ensure the rights of those who might not otherwise benefit.

The work of libraries focused on people with special needs, those based in less favoured areas, and those providing Internet access to people without other means of connecting are just some examples. Through this access, they allow for the realisation of broader economic and social rights.

Finally, the rights based approach also supports many of the broader advocacy arguments made by libraries, such as the importance of privacy and freedom of expression.

The concept of a rights-based framework can therefore be a very useful tool in library advocacy. Individuals have a right to information, to education, to culture and to science, and libraries deliver these. Moreover, as a demonstrator of the interrelation between fundamental freedoms (such as the of access to information) and economic social and cultural rights, they provide a great example of the principles of the rights-based approach in action.

Further reading:

Words of the SDGs: Participation

With more than 2500 non-State actors registered, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are a crucial part of the High Level Political Forum (HLPF). They contribute ideas, reflections, experience, inspiration – and sometimes criticism – making HLPF into a varied and dynamic event.

Transparency, accountability, measurement, monitoring, reporting, implementation, involvement, engagement, contribution, responsibility, accessibility, ownership: just a few of the keywords that have characterised CSO participation so far in New York this year.

But it is the concept of ‘participation’ itself that will be the focus of this blog. Because the possibility for non-State actors to engage and make their voices heard is not a given.


The 2030 Agenda itself underlines the importance of participation, and across sessions and side events at HLPF 2018, this idea continues to be high on the agenda. Three perspectives in particular have been discussed in relation to civil society participation: the country level, the regional level, and the international level.

A reflexion on the participation of CSOs at each of these levels follows:

Participation at the Country Level

One big question is: To what extent CSOs are involved at a national level?

Have they been invited to participate in commissions or workshops to discuss monitoring or implementation? How has this participation been formalised? Have CSOs been invited to give input or review documents and provide comments? Were these comments incorporated or considered at all? How about marginalised or most vulnerable groups? Is there an outreach strategy or mechanism in place by the government?

In the first week of the HLPF, we’ve heard and seen it all. There are cases of countries involving stakeholders to reach a consensus from the word ‘go’. This is the ideal situation! In some countries governments have taken comments from CSOs, but only incorporated them partially into their planning and reporting. Nonetheless, this is also a good advance. However, in other cases CSOs really want to voice their concerns or ideas, but they find no proper mechanism to give feedback.

Awareness is a big issue. How can you participate if you don’t know what is going on? How aware are CSO stakeholders of the actions taken by government in relation to the SDGs? How aware is the government about their responsibilities to achieve the SDGs? More efforts are needed to raise awareness across the board.

One of the challenges faced by CSOs is the lack of information on who is really in charge of SDG planning and implementation. With fragmented governance of delivering the 2030 Agenda in many cases, it is very hard to find the right people, and this gets even harder when administrations change or after elections have taken place. Even official HLPF country pages are somewhat incomplete or outdated. This can mean a lot of time spent and lost opportunities for CSOs.

Considering the multiplicity of topics in the 2030 Agenda, having a national coordinating body, usually at the highest level in the government organisational structure, and assigning focal points from all ministries and specialised agencies to be part of a steering committee for planning and reporting is considered a good practice.

Multi-stakeholder commissions, across all areas and involving crosscutting issues, are definitely a good way forward. A space for dialogue between government, private sector, academia, and civil society is key, but this needs to have an impact on public policy to be truly worthwhile.

In some cases, CSOs have presented reports, sometimes called “shadow reports”. These reports can have several approaches: they can point out what is missing, they can use the same data and do another interpretation, or they can provide new evidence. But interrogations remain about these: How to ensure that CSOs are considered partners in monitoring progress? What should these reports look like? How and where should they be submitted for consideration?

Those countries that have placed the SDGs in the legal framework or have ensured that access to information laws that are enforced, have an advantage. But unfortunately, it’s not that common. Informal engagements are usually well received and there are relatively positive efforts to open processes. However, the lack of methodology or an established process makes it harder to become a reality.

Since CSO involvement is recommended but not mandatory for Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs), the situation varies a lot from country to country. Some countries are really struggling to find the right process or methodology. In some cases, they have open mechanisms, with key stakeholders involved and included in validation stages. In others participation is ad hoc, and only small groups are consulted, often on an arbitrary basis.

Bringing less frequently heard voices to the mainstreaming process is key in the hopes of leaving no one behind. Still it is mostly well organised and well-funded NGOs that are the ones at the table. Even within CSOs some take the leadership and it is very hard for small ones or those outside of the mainstream to convey their messages.

CSOs coalitions are a possible solution to secure civil society participation. Since space for participation is shrinking in some countries, given the political climate, consensus and group representation through creating coalitions sounds like a good way to go.

Participation at the Regional Level

This year, preparatory meetings took place in 5 regions before the HLPF for: Europe (ECE), Arab countries (ESCWA), Asia-Pacific (ESCAP), Africa (ECA) and Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

These meetings have been a good opportunity for civil society to participate, get to know each other and foster collaboration in preparation for the HLPF, particularly through side events and the creation of Civil Society Declarations and, the much needed, CSO Participation Mechanisms.

Session: “Thematic review: Implementing the SDGs: lessons from the regions”

Session: “Thematic review: Implementing the SDGs: lessons from the regions”

As mentioned during the session “Thematic review: Implementing the SDGs: lessons from the regions” the regional and sub-regional levels are recognised as a good environment for discussion and peer-learning, with more space for dialogue than the international level. However, even though there is a mechanism for CSOs to engage at different moments during these fora, the inputs are usually missing in the Ministerial declarations.

As indicated by the NGO Major Group, the regional forums need to be a space to monitor progress, and there should be more space for thematic discussions in the regional level, since the HLPF has proven to be not enough.

Participation at the International Level

The High Level Political Forum (HLFP) is undoubtedly a unique event for countries to present on their progress to a global audience, to learn from other members states from all regions, as well as to interact with government, UN officials and civil society. However, there is a certain level of shared criticism about the level and modalities of participation across the board.

Particularly for CSOs, opportunities for participation on an equal basis with governments are still scarce. As a new development, some countries are bringing CSO representatives to present along with governments, at the VNRs, notably Switzerland and Latvia. However, time for presentations is very limited (1-2 minutes) and it is very hard to send the message of so many stakeholders across in such little time.

Even though CSO have limited opportunities to take the floor and formally interact with their countries during the HLPF, according to a survey prepared by the UN Foundation on the HLPF, some member states surprisingly perceive that CSO has too much space at these fora. This shows how important perceptions are, how these can affect reality.

In addition to this, there is the problem of capacity, funding and language barriers, that make participation at the international level a challenge for most CSOs. Mostly international NGOs are seen at these forums, instead of national or local organisations.

For this, it is very important that international CSOs engage with the local and national levels to bring in their perspectives (particularly in countries where the UN doesn’t have local offices), work with them and give them a voice. A positive added benefit of participating of the HLPF is that there are  many opportunities to meet national representatives. In some cases, meeting a representative at the HLPF helps in getting a better response back in the country too.

Side event: "An NGO Toolbox to Enhance Implementation of the 2030 Agenda: Towards Sustainable and Resilient Communities" (Photo of the NGO Major Group)

Side event: “An NGO Toolbox to Enhance Implementation of the 2030 Agenda: Towards Sustainable and Resilient Communities” (Photo of the NGO Major Group)

Conclusion and Next Steps

The good news is that there have been improvements, and the fact that there are complaints of the lack of space is a good signal that shows a great interest in the process, from all actors.

The reality is experience of enabling the participation of CSOs is still limited, and it is evident that governments, the UN and CSOs are learning as they go. It is good to know that 2019 will bring a formal opportunity to review the modalities and devise other methodologies.

Learning from the first 4 years of HLPF experience in order to find better ways towards SDG implementation is key. A more operational approach, a bigger space for sharing best practices and recommendations, and a stronger commitment and follow up are some of the improvements people are looking for in this next stage.

For CSOs, the most valuable change would be to foster better discussions and open dialogue with governments. The effective recognition of the multi-stakeholder principle at the country, regional, and international levels is imperative.

One thing is clear, the 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved without civil society. An open and inclusive approach is the only way to go.

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.

Everyone Can Develop, But Not Without Access to Information

Development and Access to InformationTen years ago, Oxfam launched a successful campaign based on the proverb: ‘Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime’.

The idea is an easy one to understand – sustainable solutions to people’s problems come not from handouts, but from teaching them how to become economically independent. And it is applicable everywhere, not just in developing countries.

For libraries, there is a third step. Give someone access to information, and they can build new skills, stronger communities and better lives. They can not only survive, but thrive. The Development and Access to Information (DA2I) report, to be launched at the High Level Political Forum, shows how.

Access is more than formal education

The world is changing for everyone. To adapt, we need to be able to take the right decisions, at all points in our life. Even in the most developed countries, the process of acquiring, processing and applying information cannot stop with the end of formal education. And elsewhere, many people have had only limited schooling, if any at all.

Access to information, from the results of cutting edge medical research to basic hygiene tips, from the latest crop prices to data about traffic congestion, is vital. And it needs to be delivered in a way that allows everyone to benefit – women and men, poor and rich, rural and urban.

Access is more than computers and cables

It is undeniable that the Internet has created unprecedented opportunities to discover, create and share information. Never have we been able to find so many facts and opinions so quickly, collaborate across borders so easily, or apply such powerful tools to make new discoveries.

Getting online requires networks and hardware, as well as low-cost or free options, such as public access points, for those who have limited resources. A mixture of investment, innovative tools and business models, and the right regulation will be essential.

Without relevant content in a language the user understands, and without the skills and attitudes necessary to feel confident, the Internet cannot realise its potential. At its best, the Internet should not only allow users to consume, but to produce the information that will help others in their communities learn and grow as well.

Not just access. Meaningful, inclusive access

As an essential ingredient of development, we need better to understand the degree to which people around the world have the possibility to access information. We need also to understand what it takes to make this access useful.

The Development and Access to Information (DA2I) Report, to be launched by IFLA and TASCHA on 17 July 2017, marks the starting point of a major new effort to achieve this. By setting out a set of baseline indicators, it underlines the challenges we face today, and provides a benchmark allowing readers to monitor progress in future.

Addressing four of the focus SDGs of this year’s HLPF, the DA2I report also illustrates how meaningful access to information delivers results in the fields of agriculture, health, gender equality and innovation.

Furthermore, it underlines the importance of forming partnerships between actors to deliver access to information – national and local governments, business, practitioners, researchers.

Libraries are central to such partnerships. They do not just offer access to information, but they make it meaningful and inclusive. From enabling international research collaborations, to delivering the skills, support and safe environment vulnerable groups at a local level need, libraries help citizens exercise their right to development and improve their lives.


Development and Access to Information (DA2I) is the first of a series of annual reports that will monitor the progress countries are making towards fulfilling their commitment to promote meaningful access to information as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Produced by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), in partnership with the Technology and Social Change Group at the University of Washington, it underlines the invaluable contribution that information access, particularly through libraries, makes to promoting more socially and economically inclusive societies. The report will be launched on 17 July, in the margins of the High Level Political Forum.


You can learn more about the DA2I report on the dedicated website (https://da2i.ifla.org/), as well as register to receive a notification when the report has been launched and it is ready for download!

Learn more about the work of IFLA in Libraries, Development and the United Nations 2030 Agenda: www.ifla.org/libraries-development