" ITREALMS: UNESCO, IFLA team up on WSIS Action Plan

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

UNESCO, IFLA team up on WSIS Action Plan

Remmy Nweke

UNited Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) have teamed up on a strategy towards implementing Plan of Action as decision of the World Summit on the Information Society.

The partnership they said, came in a bid to foster the role of libraries as key players in building people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented knowledge societies.

In a press statement made available to our correspondent and endorsed by the duo of Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information at UNESCO, Dr. Abdul Waheed Khan, and IFLA’s President, Mr. Alex Byrne, in Seoul, at the 72nd IFLA General Conference and Council, informed that the alliance would aim at establishing common strategic approaches and projects to implement library-related parts of the Declaration of Principles and the Geneva Plan of Action adopted by WSIS in Geneva in 2003 and endorsed in Tunis in 2005.

The documents recognize the importance of the role libraries play in building appropriate information infrastructure, in ensuring access to information and knowledge, in capacity building and in preserving cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content.

According to Dr. Khan, the libraries are key actors for ensuring universal access to information and for building knowledge societies, hence “We are very much looking forward to build on the excellent partnership that we enjoy with IFLA since long, to put the vision of WSIS into practice.”

For IFLA President, Mr. Byrne, “Libraries are crucial to enabling intellectual freedom by providing access to information and knowledge. Regardless of frontiers, they help to safeguard democratic values and universal civil rights. We believe that their contribution is indispensable for realizing UNESCO’s concept of knowledge societies which are built on universal access to information and freedom of expression.”

Both the UNESCO and the IFLA representatives announced that their organizations will very shortly establish a mid-term strategic plan of cooperation for covering areas such as libraries and community access, information literacy and the role of libraries to ensure cultural diversity.

A special focus of the joint UNESCO/IFLA alliance will be on developing new digital and hybrid library services worldwide, in accordance with the Geneva Plan of Action. Recognizing that the role of libraries and librarians is changing dramatically worldwide and that the concept of libraries today goes far beyond physical boundaries, both organisations will cooperate to design a coordinated set of “universal digital library” projects that would eventually result in establishing one or more universal digital libraries that would bring scattered cultural and scientific materials of the diverse cultures to the desks of students and scholars all over the world.

For many years UNESCO and IFLA have cooperated closely in developing information capacities of UNESCO member states, in particular in the field of libraries, including information services with a broad scope of projects ranging for example from “Guidelines for Digitization” to “Information Literacy”, and from “Preserving the African Documentary Heritage” to “Public and School Libraries in the Caribbean”.

Outstanding in their breadth, depth, impact and potential, are the two Manifestos. The “IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto” and the “IFLA/UNESCO School Library Manifesto” have brought both organizations to join forces on a truly worldwide scale.

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