24th January 2020

IFLA: Libraries, Development and the United Nations 2030 Agenda

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a framework of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a total of 169 Targets spanning economic, environmental and social development. They lay out a plan for all countries to engage actively in making our world better for its people, with no-one left behind.

Libraries are key institutions for achieving the Goals. Over the last few years, IFLA has been actively involved with the creation of the UN 2030 Agenda, advocating for the inclusion of access to information, safeguarding of cultural heritage, universal literacy, and access to information and communication technologies (ICT) in the framework.

In August 2015, after more than three years of negotiations and intense involvement from many stakeholders, including IFLA, the Member States of the United Nations agreed to a final version of the post-2015 Development Agenda – now known as the 2030 Agenda. This Agenda was adopted by world leaders in September 2015 at a historic UN Summit.

In the UN 2030 Agenda, access to information has been recognised as a target under Sustainable Development Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels:

Target 16.10: Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.” (Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development)

Culture (target 11.4) and ICT (targets 5b, 9c, 17.8) have also been included in the SDGs.

Half of the world’s population lacks access to information online. In our knowledge society, libraries provide access and opportunity for all.” (Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development)

And, universal literacy is recognised in the vision for the UN 2030 Agenda.

We envision…a world with universal literacy.” (Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development)

The International Advocacy Programme (IAP)

International Advocacy Programme (IAP)

The IFLA International Advocacy Programme (IAP) is a capacity-building programme launched in 2016, designed to promote and support the role libraries can play in the planning and implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.


  • Raise the level of awareness on the SDGs of library workers at community, national and regional levels, and to promote the important role libraries can play in development by contributing to the UN 2030 Agenda and the SDGs;
  • Increase the participation of library associations and public library representatives in advocacy work at national and regional levels to secure sustainable public access to information through library services and programmes.

In the context of the IAP, ‘advocacy’ involves “the actions individuals or organizations undertake to influence decision-making at the local, regional, state, national, and international levels that help create a desired policy or funding change in support of public libraries” (Global Libraries Advocacy Guide (2011), p.2).

The programme is organized in the following main phases:

Awareness-raising and advocacy plan development

IFLA delivered regional workshops to raise awareness of the 2030 Agenda and SDGs, and help participants develop a proposal to undertake advocacy activities around the SDGs at national and regional levels to get libraries included in the National Development Plans.

IAP Regional Workshops

Follow-up actions by participating countries

Before the workshop, participants signed an agreement with IFLA to carry out awareness-raising activities and to meet with policy makers to ensure libraries are recognised as key partners in supporting the United Nations 2030 Agenda. IFLA monitors progress and supports participants to achieve their commitments, and helps communicate widely their activities and progress with the community.

Participating countries:

76 countries/territories have signed agreements with IFLA to participate in the IAP:

  • Africa (Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, South Africa, eSwatini, Uganda, Zimbabwe)
  • Asia-Pacific (Australia, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Vietnam)
  • Europe (Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland)
  • Latin America and the Caribbean (Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Belize, Bermuda, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Paraguay, Perú, Puerto Rico (United States), St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay)
  • MENA (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates)

Call for Funding Proposals

IFLA launched calls for funding proposals in January and August 2017, to carry out awareness-raising activities at a national or regional level. All countries were eligible to apply and priority was given to regional initiatives including countries that were not involved in the regional workshops.

Through these projects, 38 additional countries/territories are now also involved in the IAP:

  • Africa (Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Tanzania)
  • Asia-Pacific (Hong Kong (China), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macau (China), Russian Federation, Taiwan, Uzbekistan)
  • Europe (Austria, Bosnia Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Sud Tirol (Italy))
  • Latin America and the Caribbean (Bolivia, Ecuador)
  • MENA (Libya, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen)

Global Review

A delegation of IAP participants from all regional workshops were invited to a Global Convening on 28-29 June 2018 in New York, USA, to share their actions, experiences, evaluate the progress and impact of the programme to date, and to make joint plans for future cooperation around the UN 2030 Agenda.

How do libraries further development?

IFLA has gathered examples of how libraries are already furthering development along with some recommended actions libraries can take to help achieve specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Access and Opportunity For All

Libraries further development by helping people get the information they need to access economic opportunity, gender equality, quality education, improve their health or develop their communities.

  • Development projects that are working to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are most effective when they leverage existing resources and local institutions that people already know and trust, such as public libraries, rather than funding new, unproven infrastructure, or investing in narrow, technology-based approaches.
  • Libraries have staying power because of ongoing public support and dedicated funding, and therefore governments and development agencies should seek to strengthen and expand the services libraries offer.
  • Libraries support initiatives in a variety of fields, including health, agriculture, civic engagement, education, information literacy and others, and have a powerful impact in the community because they are connected to people needs at a local level.

All over the world, libraries combine a trusted, local institution with information access that is critical to driving economic opportunity and community development. Libraries offer a more efficient, smarter way of doing development.

IFLA Statement on Libraries and Development

Access to information is a fundamental human right that can break the cycle of poverty and support sustainable development.

The library is the only place in many communities where people can access information that will help improve their education, develop new skills, find jobs, build businesses, make informed agricultural and health decisions, or gain insights into environmental issues.

Their unique role makes libraries important development partners, both by providing access to information in all formats and by delivering services and programmes that meet the needs for information in a changing and increasingly complex society.

Through the Statement on Libraries and Development, IFLA affirms that:

  • Libraries provide opportunity for all
  • Libraries empower people for their own self-development
  • Libraries offer access to the world’s knowledge
  • Librarians provide expert guidance
  • Libraries are part of a multistakeholder society
  • Libraries must be recognised in development policy frameworks

The Lyon Declaration

The Lyon Declaration is an advocacy document signed by more than 600 organisations, calling upon United Nations Member States to make an international commitment on ensuring that everyone has access to, and is able to understand, use and share the information that is necessary to promote sustainable development and democratic societies.

It states clearly that access to information supports development by empowering people to:

  • Exercise their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights
  • Learn and apply new skills
  • Make decisions and participate in an active and engaged civil society
  • Create community-based solutions to development challenges
  • Ensure accountability, transparency, good governance, and empowerment
  • Measure progress on public and private commitments on sustainable development.

Take Action!

Take action now so that libraries have a say. Everyone in the library community and beyond can help promote the role of libraries as supporters of development.

Now that the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is underway, it is up to you to act and ensure that your needs are reflected on your national level. Libraries must now show that they can drive progress across the entire 2030 Agenda. We encourage the library community, specially library associations and institutions, to take action now.

While the SDGs are universal goals, each country will be responsible for developing and implementing national strategies to achieve them, and will be expected to track and report its own progress toward each target. As these plans are developed, the library community will have a clear opportunity to communicate to their government leaders how libraries serve as cost-effective partners for advancing their development priorities.

How to get involved?

  • Advocating with government decision-makers is essential now to secure recognition for the role of libraries as engines of development, and to ensure that libraries receive the resources needed to continue this work.
  • Raising awareness in the library community and beyond (through events, social media, websites, blogs, mailing lists) to show libraries’ contribution to development. Make use of resources available on the IFLA website for this purpose.

Helpful Resources

The International Advocacy Programme (IAP) is IFLA’s flagship initiative for supporting its members and the broader library field to engage in policies for economic, social and cultural development. The IAP page of our website explains more about this work, and the opportunities available to get involved.

Complementing core IAP activities, IFLA has produced a toolkit, a booklet, and a handout to support you in your advocacy and awareness-raising activities:

  • Use the toolkit for background on the UN 2030 Agenda and to plan your advocacy;
  • Create a delegation in your country to carry out advocacy work. Make sure to involve the national association and the national librarian as key influential partners in this initiative;
  • Use the booklet and handout as documents you can take to meetings to give to government officials or coalition partners;
  • Send electronic versions of the booklet and handout to your library association members, your staff, and key decision makers from your country;
  • Reprint the booklet and handout in your language for dissemination;
  • Translate the booklet and/or the handout to share them in your community. Keep in mind IFLA’s Branding guidelines and make sure to send us the file to make it available in IFLA’s website (Contact us to receive editable files to facilitate the translation work).
  • Adapt, reuse and translate a set of awareness-raising PowerPoint slides about libraries, the UN 2030 agenda and the SDGs (currently available in ArabicEnglishFrench and Spanish).
  • Create your own UN 2030 Agenda dissemination materials following UN guidelines for Non-UN Entities.

Delivering on a commitment in the Lyon Declaration on Access to Information and Development, IFLA in partnership with the Technology & Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the University of Washington Information School, launched the first Development and Access to Information (DA2I) report at the United Nations High Level Political Forum 2017.

The DA2I is a series of reports designed as an advocacy tool to demonstrate the invaluable contribution that information access, particularly through libraries, makes to promoting more socially and economically inclusive societies. Learn more about the DA2I and how you can use it to help you advocating for libraries in development!

Stay in touch

More news