Exclusive: International Year of Glass interview
An ebullient Alicia Durán, Chair of the Steering Committee for the International Year of Glass 2022, spoke to Glass Worldwide after receiving UN approval for a campaign that she has helped to champion since 2018. The full version of this article appears in the July/August issue that has been mailed globally and is also now available free of charge in the digital archive*.
A UN badged International Year requires a United Nations resolution. The journey to put the spotlight on glass and tell the full story of its transformational properties began in America when tech giant Corning and other researchers and universities began to build the idea of the ‘Age of Glass’, recognising the importance of glass applications in all the different sectors.
“The possibility of an International Year of Glass (IYOG) was presented by Manoj Choudhary, then President of the International Commission on Glass (ICG) and David Pye, past ICG President, at the ICG Conference in June 2019 in Yokohama,” Alicia Durán told Glass Worldwide. “At that point, I was elected new President of the ICG and we started looking at the possibilities of an International Year of Glass in 2022 to coincide with key dates such as the ICG Congress 2022 in Berlin and the 100th anniversaries of the Deutsche Glastechnische Gesellschaft (DGG) and discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb with the collection of ancient Egyptian glass.”
The IYOG steering committee’s application to the UN centred on promoting the history of glass and its future potential, as well as it showing how the glass community is supporting UN developmental goals for its 2030 agenda.
“For example, container glass is infinitely recyclable and an important example of a circular economy,” notes Prof. Durán. “There is a revolution in architecture facilitated by glass and the carbon neutrality it can bring to buildings. Glass is also a very significant material in the progress of technologies such as optical fibres that permit the development of the internet and 5G; new paradigms that are the physical base of globalisation. Glass is also a base resource for green energy with applications in solar, wind and many more. And last but not least, in health applications, bioactive glasses have many different uses and of course, as highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic in the last year, pharmaceutical glass is the container of choice for vaccines. So glass is everywhere and is a material at the base of sustainable development.”
Plan of action
The proposal received a very positive response at the 3rd International Convention of Glass Associations in July 2019, as well as from ICG’s members and the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Glass (ICOM).
“By November 2019, in co-operation with more than 25 experts and many different organisations, we had a document following the goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” explains Prof. Durán. “From there we had an executive summary and an eco-social document; we counted on the support of many countries and arrived with a very strong proposal that presented the perspective and landscape of the international glass industry. Support and letters of endorsement continued to grow and we currently have support from more than 1500 organisations from many different sectors."
“The target was for approval In July 2020, but the pandemic caused a 10-month delay. In the meantime, in November 2020 we increased support with the released a video campaign to great effect. Spain, Egypt and Turkey offered support from the outset and were joined by Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Hungary, Japan, Kiribati, Mongolia, Russian Federation, Senegal, Slovakia, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) and Vietnam as the 19 co-sponsors of IYOG, a record for this type of resolution.”
A draft resolution outlining the committee’s ambitions was proposed by the Spanish Permanent Mission at United Nations, negotiated with the Missions of UN countries during April 2021 and the formal resolution was agreed at the United Nations General Assembly on May 18, 2021.
Extracts from the resolution recognise that “glass has accompanied humankind for centuries, enriching the quality of life of millions, and that … [it is] one of the most important, versatile and transformative materials of history”.
According to the resolution, “the International Year of Glass, 2022 will underline the technological, scientific, economic, environmental, historical and artistic role of glass in our societies, emphasising the rich possibilities of developing technologies and their potential contribution to meeting the challenges of sustainable development and inclusive societies, achieving world economic recovery and building back better from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and bringing together the threads of technology, social history and art through educational programmes and museum exhibitions”.
The full resolution is available to read online at https://undocs.org/en/A/RES/75/279
Naturally, the IYOG committee was thrilled with the result.
“On the first of January, IYOG will begin!” enthuses Prof. Duràn. “I am very happy and many people are really happy. It is a dream come true and is surely the most important project in my life. There is much work to do but I know we will succeed. This is not an individual project or the project of a few experts; it’s a common project of the entire glass community in the world. The involvement of the glass industry is total – it’s amazing! We will be counting on Glass Worldwide as a partner to keep everyone informed!”
There is still a lot of work to do, reports Prof. Durán. With no financial support from United Nations, a fundraising campaign was launched to finance the IYOG’s opening conference in Geneva on 10–11 February and other events will be funded by national organisers. Conferences will be staged by ICOM, the Contemporary Glass Art Association and the Corning Museum of Glass, and there will be a US Glass Day in Washington.
The Spanish Research Council, CSIC, will stage two exhibitions. One will focus on the role of glass in the goals of United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The other, supported by ANFEVI, FEVE and the Friends of Glass, will be dedicated to circular economy and recycling. Both will be presented in English and Spanish and the layouts and templates of these exhibitions will be offered to all the other countries for possible translation.
A high quality book in English and Spanish is also set to be produced, with a layout that can be adapted by other countries, and there will be another exhibition and book co-ordinated by Abividro (the Brazilian Association for Flat Glass Distributors and Processors) in Brazil, focusing on glass architecture.
IYOG will feature at China Glass Expo in April 2022, glasstec 2022, glasspex India 2022 and ICG Congress 2022 in Berlin, and, in the immediate future, at Vitrum 2021 in Milan this October.
“Co-ordinating all the proposals and activities all over the world is a huge undertaking and we are currently finalising an international council committee, ideally consisting of 50–60 people with representation from each country,” says Prof. Durán. “For example, John Parker and David Moore from the Society of Glass Technology are co-ordinating a UK steering committee. An executive committee will then be created. The concept is to publish all activities through the website, for organisers to share full details of their events so that other countries can replicate those they are interested in.”
With “thousands” of IYOG events being organised at a local level, and a variety of projects in the pipeline, 2022 is set to be a memorable year for glass.
Image: Alicia Durán (far right) with former ICG Presidents who lent their support to the IYOG proposal.
* The full version of this article appears in the July/August issue that has been mailed globally. To increase accessibility in the current environment, the digital version of this issue can be read free of charge in its entirety alongside back copies in the Digital Archive (sponsored by FIC) at https://www.glassworldwide.co.uk/Digital-Issues. To receive the paper copy, all future issues and a free copy of the new Who’s Who / Annual Review 2021-22 yearbook, subscribe now at https://www.glassworldwide.co.uk/subscription-choice
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