Four Asian countries reinforce support for Memory of the World
Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan agreed last week to strengthen UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme in the region. The steps to be undertaken by the four countries include the establishment of national Memory of the World committees for countries that have no such committee in place, capacity-building activities aimed at protecting and safeguarding documentary heritage, and regular exchange of information and experts.
The agreement came as part of the Recommendations reached by participants representing the four Asian countries at a sub-regional seminar held in Tehran on 21 to 22 October. The event wasco-organised by UNESCO’s Tehran Cluster Office and the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO, with support from the Iranian National Library and Archives and the Iranian National Committee for Memory of the World.
The Tehran Recommendations also include the creation of documentary heritage databases at a national level, particularly through the implementation of national surveys and networking among the four cluster countries and facilitating access to documentary heritage for the general public through digitization and other multimedia solutions.
According to the Recommendations, the Memory of the World Programme should be integrated into educational curricula, and a sub-regional consultative committee comprising the four countries (with possible future extension to other countries) should be formed. The most important activity to be pursued by and through this committee at the initial phase would be training and exchange of experiences and information on the Memory of the World. Further activities could include the implementation of joint projects and the preparation of a sub-regional tentative list of nominations.
In her opening remarks at the seminar, Tarja Virtanen, Director of UNESCO’s Tehran Office, stressed the importance of collaborative efforts to be pursued by the four participating countries in order to respond to the current challenges facing the Memory of the World Programme. Ms Virtanen said she saw the seminar as a platform for sharing ideas and experiences, particularly those of Iran, which currently has five items inscribed on the Memory of the World Register.
While Pakistan has one item inscribed in the Register, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan do not currently have any, butboth have the potential to explore their documentary heritage and share it through future entries in the Memory of the World Programme.
Ms Virtanen encouraged the development of future plans and ideas in the context of the Vancouver Declaration, issued by more than 500 participants of the Memory of the World in the Digital Age conference in late September.
In her written remarks prepared for the Tehran seminar, UNESCO’s focal point for the Memory of the World Programme at UNESCO Headquarters, Ms Joie Springer, outlined a brief history of the Programme, as well as its importance for future generations. She said Memory of the World must be preserved through a variety of means, including digitization.
The need for closer and stronger collaboration between the four countries was underlined by the Secretary-General of the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO, Dr Mohammad Reza Saeidabadi. He suggested the creation of a sub-regional team and the joint submission of nominations to the Memory of the World Register. In their speeches, the representatives of Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan agreed that they should have closer collaboration, while taking into account the specific conditions and resources of each country.
Speaking on Iran’s participation in the Memory of the World Programme, Dr Eshagh Salahi, Head of the Iranian National Library and Archivesand President of the Iranian National Committee for Memory of the World, outlined the activities that have been implemented by his country over the past years and pointed to future plans for continued engagement.