Documentary heritage is an essential part of the collective memory of cultures and civilizations. Belonging to all people, documentary heritage should be fully preserved and protected and, with due recognition of cultural mores and practicalities, should be permanently accessible to all without hindrance.
Based on this vision, UNESCO established in 1992 the Memory of the World (MoW) Programme which aims to preserve the world’s documentary heritage and ensure universal and permanent access to it. Since that time, the MoW Programme has been promoting capacity building, fostering international cooperation, identifying best practices, implementing projects, developing resources and leading standard-setting activities in this field.
The digital revolution has brought with it new opportunities but also significant challenges for accessing and preserving humanity’s knowledge and experience. To assist Member States to overcome these challenges, UNESCO’s General Conference in 2015 adopted The Recommendation concerning the Preservation of, and Access to, Documentary Heritage including in Digital Form. The latter is a normative that aims at developing sustainable responses to the emerging challenges facing the preservation and accessibility of documentary heritage. To avert potentially irreversible losses, global awareness as well as the capacity to effectively apply the Recommendation is essential to ensure continued access to the world’s analogue and digital documentary heritage.
In November 2018, a regional consultation meeting for Arab States was organized in Tunis to raise awareness of this instrument and the associated implementation guidelines. The meeting sought to gain insights into national circumstances to achieve better alignment and provide relevant guidance on implementation of the Recommendation. In addition, the consultation sought to encourage the establishment and/or reinvigoration of National MoW Committees as well as the establishment of National Registers. A subset of the countries covered by UNESCO’s Beirut and Cairo Offices (Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan and Syria) were however unable to participate in the regional consultation meeting.
Against this backdrop, UNESCO Beirut and Cairo Offices organized on 30 July – 1 August 2019, a 3-day Regional Memory of the World Capacity-Building Workshop at Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria. The event aimed at providing participants from Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan and Syria with an opportunity to acquire the knowledge shared at the Tunis regional consultation meeting and involve them in undertaking national actions.
Held in partnership with Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Centre for Arabic Speaking Libraries, the event was attended by 16 information professionals from Governments, MoW Committees and memory institutions in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Sudan, Syria and Palestine. For three days, participants were introduced to the MoW Programme, including its International and Regional Registers; and listened to testimonials of participants from Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and Sudan, countries who have begun national implementation of the Recommendation. The workshop also included practical demonstrations of assessment and preservation practices.