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UNESCO Bangkok joins hands with archivists in preserving the region’s memory


On the occasion of the 18th General Conference and the 19th Executive Board meeting of the Southeast Asian Regional Branch of the International Council of Archives (SARBICA) followed by a seminar on “Electronic Records: Prepare for Change and Prevent Loss”, UNESCO Bangkok re-affirmed the organization’s support in the valuable contribution of archivists and records managers in the preservation and making accessible to public important historic documents.

“While in times of paper-based communications, preservation was very much driven by selection issues and space problems for storage, nowadays in the digital era, preservation efforts have to start when electronic records are created”, said Dieter Schlenker from UNESCO Bangkok.

Hosted by the National Archives of Thailand, the two-day workshop on electronic records preservation raised a series of issues on new digital working methods of governments and administrations in Southeast Asia that put the preservation of valuable information at risk.

“The ability of government to protect the rights of its citizens and to improve citizen-government interaction is a critical issue in an increasingly electronic environment. The rights and entitlements of citizens are based on records,” said James Lowry of the UK-based International Records Management Trust.

To protect records in a changing world and tackle the challenges of the digital era, the archival community has developed a series of international standards, some of which managed by the highest international standard authority, the International Standards Organization ISO in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Records are the fuel that drives the delivery of government programs and strategic priorities. Records are instruments that support accountability, transparency, trust, and the protection of rights and entitlements,” said John MacDonald, Information Management Consulting and Education in Canada.

During the workshop, two projects from SARBICA member countries were highlighted: The role of the National Archives of Malaysia in the implementation of electronic records management system in the public sector, presented by Mrs. Normazlinalaila Bahari, National Archives of Malaysia, and the use of digital technology in the management of non-textual archives in Singapore, presented by Mr. Eric Tan, Director National Archives of Singapore.

Presenting the mission, strategies and structure of the International Council of Archives ICA, its Secretary General David A. Leitch highlighted that SARBICA, founded in 1968, has been the first regional branch of the ICA.

The International Council of Archives was founded in 1948 as the world’s recognized representation for archivists and records managers.  Every four years, the ICA organizes an International Congress, which in 2012 will take place in Brisbane, Australia.

UNESCO, as founder of ICA and UN Agency with the mandate to enhance the role of archives globally in their important mission to preserve records, is concentrating its efforts on the Right to Information programme, i.e. the right of citizen’s to access relevant public information and the related accountability and transparency of governments, which also extends to the role of public archives. In the field of preservation, UNESCO is managing the Memory of the World programme, which registers since 1992 archival funds, library collections and single documents with an outstanding value as written memory of humankind.

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