The Information Literacy Group committee has released a statement to outline its position on IFLA’s recent decision to select Dubai as the venue for the World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) 2024. You can find the full text below.
The Information Literacy Group (ILG) committee welcomes CILIP’s statement regarding IFLA’s selection of Dubai as the venue for the World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) 2024. We share CILIP’s concerns over the impact of this decision on our professional community, particularly on our LGBTQ+ colleagues.
In addition to the well-known risks to LGBTQ+ attendees (same-sex sexual activity is criminalised in the United Arab Emirates, as is the gender expression of trans people), UAE law also discriminates against women, and ethnic minorities within the UAE have been subject to arbitrary detention and groundless deportation. UAE residents who are HIV+ are criminalised and may be deported, and there has been reported harassment of temporary visitors carrying HIV medication. Migrant workers within the UAE are subject to abuse and labour rights violations, and extremely vulnerable to forced labour. Workers are also unable to form unions and collectively bargain for labour rights.
Of particular concern from an information literacy perspective is the UAE’s violations of rights to free expression. CILIP and ILG define information literacy as “the ability to think critically and make balanced judgements about any information we find and use. It empowers us as citizens to develop informed views and to engage fully with society”. As Human Rights Watch notes, “Scores of activists, academics, and lawyers are serving lengthy sentences in UAE prisons following unfair trials on vague and broad charges that violate their rights to free expression and association”. Without the ability to openly discuss accurate information, and discuss topics that challenge those in power, there can be no information literacy.
We support CILIP’s request for a transparent account from IFLA of their decision-making process in selecting the winning bid from Dubai to host WLIC 2024, and their plans to ensure the safety of all attendees. We suggest adding the following direct questions.
- IFLA report that a “thoughtful, rich, and robust discussion” was held at their June meeting on this topic. Would the IFLA Governing Board be willing to share relevant minutes from this meeting, including details of any concerns that were raised at the time and how these were addressed?
- In their recent statement, IFLA stated that they “actively sought relevant information, and considered the potential impact on some groups, and the LGBTQIA+ community in particular”. Were diverse voices included in this information seeking process, and was a diversity audit carried out? Was a risk assessment conducted for the choice of host country, and if so would IFLA be willing to share this?
- IFLA also state that they plan to hold the hosts to their “commitment to human rights”. Can they provide any concrete details of how they intend to do this, for example any specific commitments written into the host agreement?
- We agree with IFLA’s point that any selected location will exclude some communities. However we would argue that in pursuing equality, it seems IFLA has not addressed equity. Were other steps considered to encourage broader global attendance without disadvantaging other minoritised demographics, for example hosting in an online or hybrid format?
In the meantime, due to our concerns over the safety of LGBTQ+ attendees, UAE’s human rights record more broadly, and the chilling effect on freedom of expression that comes from hosting a conference in a country that is hostile to free speech, the undersigned ILG committee members will not participate in WLIC while it is hosted in Dubai. In addition, if the concerns raised by CILIP with the IFLA Governing Board are not satisfactorily met, we urge CILIP to join us in our boycott of WLIC 2024, following the lead of other IFLA members such as the Association for Library and Information Science Information, the Swedish librarians’ union DIK, and the Finnish Library Association.
Dr Jane Secker, Chair
Anne-Lise Harding, Deputy Chair
Laura Woods, Deputy Chair
Pip Divall, Health Libraries Representative
Stéphane Goldstein, Advocacy and Outreach Officer
Louise Minta, Secretary
Jo Lapham, Further Education Representative
Kate Grigsby, Marketing and Communications Officer
Dan Pullinger, Website Manager
Padma Inala, Training Officer
Andy Lacey, Public Libraries Representative
Geoff Walton, LIS Schools Representative
Elizabeth Brookbank, North America Representative
Jonas Herriot, Treasurer