Regional Memory of the World Workshop for the National Committees of French-speaking African countriesSeptember 20, 2023
By Papa Momar Diop,
President of ARCMoW
In the 1990s, the main global challenge for documentary heritage was how to make it better preserved and accessible. So, Mr. Federico Major Director General of UBESCO had the magnificent idea of bringing together in 1992 a group of experts in Warsaw, Poland, to reflect on the manner to face it.
This meeting culminated in the same year with the creation of the Memory Programme and was the prelude to the adoption of the 2015 Recommendation concerning the Preservation and Accessibility of Documentary Heritage, including Digital Heritage.
Of course, originally the Programme’s mission was to contribute to the identification of documentary heritage, its better preservation, its promotion and its wider accessibility. However, it must be recognized that through its founding texts and its operational mechanism, it also has the mission of contributing to collaboration between the stakeholders, institutional or individual, of the world’s documentary heritage.
In this operational system, there are currently 3 Regional Committees: MoWCAP, MoWLAC and ARCMoW.
1. Presentation of ARCMoW
Of the three Committees, ARCMoW is the latest to be created. It was set up in 2007, but is only really functional from 2021 after the General Assembly for revitalization, held on May 26, 27 and 28. These consultations resulted in the revision of the basic texts of ARCMoW and the election of an Executive Committee for four years. The Executive Committee, made up of 9 members, is responsible for:
- conduct awareness-raising activities in the Africa Region on the MoW Programme and Africa’s documentary heritage;
- encourage the creation of MoW national committees throughout Africa;
- contribute to implementing the work of the MoW National Committees;
- promote, facilitate and monitor the MoW Programme in the African Region;
- represent Africa at the international level;
- plan a Regional MoW Register and determine its selection and inscription criteria;
- support African nominations to the MoW International Register;
- to encourage and support the submission of African nominations for the UNESCO Jikji Prize;
- encourage a good representation of Africa’s documentary heritage in the MoW International Register;
- engage ARCMoW in the dynamics to meet the challenges facing the world’s documentary heritage.
Today, among the challenges facing documentary heritage stakeholders is the central issue of international and regional collaboration or cooperation.
And from this point of view, MoWCAP, measuring the importance of the issue, brings together, today, the three Regional Memory Committees to initiate reflection on how to foster a culture of cooperation around documentary heritage.
2. Importance of the culture of collaboration in the field of documentary heritage
One of the founding ideals of UNESCO is the culture of peace in the minds of men to eradicate wars. Indeed, it proclaims in its constitutive act “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be erected. “
The culture of peace necessarily has as its seed the culture of collaboration in the field of documentary heritage! Why?
Because for there to be sustainable peace, there needs to be mutual respect for human cultures, which will go through respect for global cultural diversity. Indeed, in the recitals of the 2005 UNESCO Convention, it is recalled “that cultural diversity, which flourishes in a framework of democracy, tolerance, social justice and mutual respect between peoples and cultures, is essential for peace and security at the local, national and international levels”. However, the documentary heritage is a powerful vehicle through the ages for the expression of various human cultures.
Thus, the strengthening of the culture of collaboration in this particular area of heritage accessible without hindrance to all, is a fundamental lever contributing to the recognition of otherness, to the dialogue and to the mutual understanding of cultures and peoples, and consequently to the promotion of sutainable peace.
In our opinion, in the field of documentary heritage, fostering the culture of collaboration requires existing mechanisms and tools at the national, multilateral, international and regional levels. Among these mechanisms and tools, we can distinguish those identified within the framework of the Memory of the World World Programme.
3. Current mechanisms and tools for a culture of collaboration in the field of Heritage within the framework of the Memory of the World Programme.
The constitutive device of the Programme presents current mechanisms and tools for a culture of collaboration in the field of Documentary Heritage coordinated by the UNESCO Unit for Documentary Heritage. These are the 2005 Recommendation, the General Guiding, the International and Regional Memory of the World Registers, the UNESCO Jikji Prize, the National Committees, the International Center for Documentary Heritage (ICDH) and the Knowledge Centres.
3.1 The 2015 Recommendation
This 2015 Recommendation is for documentary heritage what the conventions are for other kinds of heritage. Its implementation presents a moral obligation for all States, the 195 members and the 8 associate members, since it is their emanation and tacit expression of commitment. From this point of view, it is too a normative instrument of a binding nature.
Point 5 of the Recommendation is entirely reserved for national and international cooperation in the field of documentary heritage. It encourages Member States to:
- support the exchange of data, publications and information resulting from research, as well as the training and exchange of specialized personnel and equipment;
- promote the organization of meetings, courses and working groups on specific subjects, such as cataloguing, risk management, identification of endangered elements of documentary heritage and cutting-edge research;
- encourage cooperation with international and regional associations, institutions and professional organizations dealing with the preservation and accessibility of documentary heritage;
- to facilitate the exchange between countries of copies of elements of the documentary heritage;
- establish cooperation on an international scale in order to safeguard the endangered elements of the documentary heritage;
- strengthen their cooperation with the Memory of the World Programme by establishing national committees and registers.
3.2 The Memory of the World International and Regional Registers
The principle of the Memory of the World registers is to ensure good visibility of the documentary heritage registered therein and to make it accessible at national, regional and international levels.
Accepting to present a documentary asset for inclusion in a register, particularly in a Regional Register and in the International Register, is an eminent act of willingness to cooperate. Because when the property is registered and benefits from the Memory of the World label, it becomes a property for all humanity and accessible to all. In a collaborative framework, these inscribed elements are under the vigilant protection of the Memory of the World Programme and the international community.
3.3 Memory of the World Regional Committees
The Regional Committees are mechanisms which, among other functions, has to develop a collaborative system both at the intra-regional level and at the inter-regional level.
For the intra-regional level, point 18.104.22.168 of the MoW Programme General Guidelines provides that “Regional committees of cooperative are structures bringing together, on a voluntary basis, national Memory of the World committees belonging to the same geographical area or having similar interests, as, for example, a common culture. »
Point 22.214.171.124 reinforces this regional collaborative framework: with the organization of “cooperative activities, such as training workshops on selected topics”;
At the inter-regional level, the three Regional Committees, mainly the elders MoWCAP and MoWCAP, often organize inter-regional cooperation activities, with workshops, capacity building conferences, sharing of good practices and so on. The current MoWCAP event in Andong and the next MoWLAC workshop in September 2023 in Rio de Janeiro to strengthen the capacities of the 5 Portuguese-speaking countries of Africa to boost their representation in the International Register, are recent illustrations of this.
3.4 The UNESCO Jikji Prize
The objectives of the Jikji Prize are eminently focused on the culture of collaboration in the field of better preservation and accessibility of the world’s Documentary Heritage.
Indeed, in this case, it is an invitation to the universal sharing of a know-how, a soft skills or a meritorious effort, unique to an individual or an institution. Sharing as many acts and activities that can serve as examples of good practice for all documentary institutions and all stakeholders in documentary heritage around the world.
3.5 The International Center for Documentary Heritage (ICDH)
A Category II Center of UNESCO, the ICDH has the slogan, “The International Center for Documentary Heritage of UNESCO where the past and the present communicate through documentary heritage and open a place of sharing with the world“. This openness to sharing with the world alone reflects the desire for inclusive collaboration.
As far as ARCMoW is concerned, this is materialized concretely through two major acts:
- the holding of many online meetings ayan led in November 2022 to the free purchase of the domain name arcmow.org and 10 years of its rent;
- the signing of a MoU whose main clause is: “the establishment of a partnership on raising awareness of the documentary heritage of Africa in the world and the introduction of knowledge and related projects within the framework of the development of MoW Programme led by ARCMoW through the production, maintenance and promotion of the website”.
The contribution of Africa in this partnership on the website has been the construction and the graphic charter by the African Library and Information Associations & Institutions in the Republic of Ghana, of which our Secretary General, Dr. Helena Assamoah Hasan, is the Director. Large windows are opened in the website to these two benefactor institutions.
Still within the framework of the implementation of this clause, the English-French bilingual book on “Africa and UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme: Inscriptions in the International Register and Winner of the Jikji Prize”, is in the process of being updated and will be released soon.
3.6 Knowledge Centres
The Sub-Committee for Education and Research of the Memory of the World International Advisory Committee has worked and closely contributed to the creation of 7 Knowledge Centres in China, Korea (Asia-Pacific), Côte d’Ivoire (Africa) and Mexico (America and Caribbean). They have organized themselves into a collaborative network for the promotion and enhancement of documentary heritage, in particular registered in the International Register and of the Memory of the World Programme.
This collaboration is evident both nationally and internationally. At the national level, the Knowledge Centre develops a collaborative synergy between the world of education, research and documentary institutions.
At the international level, the Knowledge Centres collaborate within the framework of their network.
This is an opportunity for me to call for the creation of more Knowledge Centres in our three regions and in the other regions, to further broaden and strengthen the frameworks of collaboration for better preservation and accessibility of documentary heritage.
What we can essentially retain from the presentation is that the strengthening of the culture of collaboration in the field of Documentary Heritage is intimately linked to that in the field of peace. Collaboration between documentary heritage stakeholders thus meets the founding objectives of the United Nations Organization and its Agency for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO), of which the Memory of the World Programme is a branch.
This point of our presentation is, moreover, an anticipation of the reflection to which we are invited for the Cheongju Conference on “Perspective on the contribution of Africa in a Documentary Research Network for the consolidation and promotion of Peace in the World: Proposal for the Creation of an Africa Working Group targeting the nomination, risks, heritage management and training of professionals”.
Thank you for your attention.