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United Cities and Local Government conference


I represented IFLA at the United Cities and Local Government (UCLG) conference that was held in Durban in November. UCLG is the global voice of local and regional governments; it is the largest organisation of local and regional governments in the world and is based in Barcelona. The main focus of UCLG’s work is to support and empower local and regional governments in achieving the goals of the United Nations 2030 Global Agenda.


The conference was opened by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Acting President of the Republic of South Africa. She spoke powerfully of the inequalities that see 185 million people hungry every day while there is enough food for us all. Fabrizio Hochschild Drummond, Assistant-Secretary-General of the United Nations warned of the dangers of not taking action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He told us that in 2020 the UN will celebrate 75 years since it was founded and to celebrate this, there is a UN project to plant 75 million trees. The tagline for the project is Trees not bombs and this was launched during the conference.


The conference attracted over 2,500 delegates and included many local government politicians. I spoke on three panels, the first was on culture and local government. It was significant that the first three speakers all highlighted the important role of public libraries in local cultural life; the Deputy Mayors of Lisbon and Rome were both extremely positive about the contribution libraries make to their cities and the Education Minister from South Africa was similarly endorsing the role of libraries in culture.


There were many parallel sessions and a very wide variety of topics relating to local and regional governments with a heavy emphasis on the UN 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. A lot of speakers expressed strongly that now is the time for action and that we have done enough talking. The Secretary General of UCLG, Emilia Saiz, also urged a more active response to what is happening and emphasised that ULCG is not waiting to be invited by the United Nations but is proactively seeking a closer partnership for the Decade of Action. Another strong theme that is high on the agenda of UCLG is gender equality and it is ensuring that the voices of women and girls are heard.


UCLG is advocating strongly for the recognition of culture as the fourth pillar of development alongside social, environmental and economic sustainability. The vision and objectives of UCLG fit very well with IFLA’s agenda, and there are great possibilities and opportunities in IFLA in strengthening the relationship with UCLG with so many public libraries in the world being provided by local government.


Photo credit: Jordi Pascual

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