Annual Report 2021/Story: Opening up the UN to the Wikimedia movement

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In this Story we are focusing on our work to push the agencies of the United Nations (UN) towards more free content, and in turn, how to make best use of this content on the Wikimedia platforms together with global Wikimedia communities.

UNEP became the first UN program to publish several of their flagship publications under a Wikimedia compatible license.

As part of the initiative for a content partnerships hub, we are experimenting with how we can work together with international governmental organizations (IGOs) and international NGOs (INGOs) on making high quality content available on the Wikimedia platforms.

Wikimedia Sverige has been working with UN agencies such as UNESCO, UN Women, OHCHR and UNFPA for several years. On an advocacy level, we are building upon this work, these contacts and networks to try to push for a general shift towards open access policies within and across UN agencies. Already in 2021, we could see several concrete outcomes. FAO and WIPO, to name just two agencies, made freely licensed material available on the Wikimedia platforms; and UNEP, as the first UN program,[1] published several of their flagship publications under a Wikimedia compatible license.

When it comes to making content available on the platforms, however, there is no limit on how much work that could be done. We could hire someone full time for the rest of their life, and they would probably still not have time to get all UN content onto the Wikimedia platforms. So, what rationale can we use to guide us in our work?

Building upon the work we have done to map our activities to the Sustainable Development Goals, the upcoming work with topics for impact emanating from the movement strategy, and conversations with leaders of the Wikimedia movement and the UN agencies, we decided to develop two concept papers for working with content related to biodiversity and gender together with IGOs and INGOs. The background for the rationale is that there are groups within the movement that work on these topics, and that high quality content would enrich their work; that the topics are vital for the general quality of the content on the Wikimedia platforms, and the information that readers and users can expect to find; and that the IGOs and INGOs that we are working with have a lot of content covering the topics.

Based on these concept papers, we have started collaborating with both Wikimedia affiliates and UN agencies to initiate the work. We are collaborating with UNEP to explore the possibilities of making their Protected Planet freely licensed so that it can be used on Wikidata; and we are working with the Wiki Loves Earth team, if such an upload is possible, to explore how their database can enrich the Wiki Loves Earth campaigns. We are working with UNEP and FAO to make content around biodiversity and health available on the platforms, to enrich the WikiForHumanRights campaign, which focuses on “right to a healthy environment” this year. We are working with Encyclopedia of Life and Wikimedia volunteers, to turn species data into Wikipedia articles, an area where there is a large gap existing on the platforms.

We have also initiated several projects related to the gender gap on the Wikimedia platforms. We are working with FAO to improve the coverage of women in agriculture, and the impact of biodiversity, agriculture and food production on women; we are working with UNFPA, UNESCO and OHCHR to identify women missing from Wikipedia; and we are working with the Swedish Institute and several partners to identify ways of scaling up the work with closing the gender gap for upcoming years.

All in all, work is underway, partnerships are formed and we are having conversations with movement organizers. Given the fact that the UN is a large and relatively slowly moving organization, we are positively surprised to see the results that we already have had. There is a need to clarify roles and responsibilities in the movement on how to work with UN agencies around content partnerships, i.e. what is needed from the hub and what should be done by other actors in the movement. More coordination and cooperation in this area would create increased opportunities to deliver free knowledge from the agencies to the Wikimedia platforms and to ensure reuse and integration.

One final opportunity, which we were unaware of at the start of the project, has been that several UN agencies are interested in hiring Wikimedians in Residence to make their content available on the platforms. We believe that this can be scaled, and in 2022, we will investigate how to do this in a sustainable and diverse way, and how we can work together with partners and other actors in the movement to draw on each others’ experiences.


  1. UNEP is a program under the headquarters, and not a specialized agency. That means that their copyright marks are decided upon at the headquarters, and not at UNEP itself. FAO and WIPO, on the other hand, decide on their own copyright policies. The UNEP shift is thus a major shift, in the sense that it can work as a role model for other programs.