Twenty Years of the Memory of the World Programme Marked in Uruguay
As part of her official visit to Uruguay this week, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova will open on Friday, 14 September 2012, the seminar entitled 20 years of the Memory of the World Programme: Human Rights archives, memory and truth in the Southern Cone (Ed. José Artigas , Salón de actos, Plaza Independencia 776, Montevideo, Uruguay).
The seminar is intended to deepen the discussion on documentary archives that help in preserving and understanding the history of human rights violations during the military dictatorships that were installed in the five countries of the Southern Cone, the southernmost region of South America. The archives also aim to provide reparation for the harm that these human rights violations caused.
The Memory of the World Programme was established by UNESCO in 1992 to meet the challenges of protecting endangered documentary heritage. At that time, much of the world’s documentary heritage was in a poor state of preservation, which was worsened by war and social upheaval, lack of resources, and ignorance of the importance of this heritage. Across the globe, significant collections had been destroyed as a result of looting or dispersal, illegal trading, destruction, and inadequate storage facilities and budgets.
The Memory of the World Programme serves as UNESCO’s flagship activity to promote and protect archives, libraries and museum collections worldwide so that they can be consulted by later generations. Through a wide network of experts, mechanisms have been adopted that foster the exchange of information and promote the key work of preservation and access to documentary material.
These objectives are fundamental to UNESCO, since guaranteeing the continuity of documentary heritage helps to ensure the survival of memory, build the basis of truth and support human rights. This continuity is evidenced in the many items listed on the Memory of the World Register, which includes, among others, documents of the violation of human rights during dictatorial regimes and others that narrate slavery and the slave routes. Both themes are poignantly meaningful for the Latin American and Caribbean region.
“In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Memory of the World Programme, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, bonded by a common past, will gather together in view of strengthening ties of cooperation, of exchange of information and of interaction for the enlightenment of the truth about enforced disappearances," said Ms Graciela Jorge, executive director of the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic of Uruguay and organizer of the event in partnership with UNESCO.
The seminar will be attended by leading specialists from the region whose institutions have already been recognized by the Memory of the World Programme, such as Argentina’s National Archive of Memory , the Network of information and counter information on the military regime in Brazil, the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Chile, and the Documentation Center and Archives for the Defense of Human Rights - Archives of Terror in Paraguay.
"These archives are fundamental to the processes of re-democratization in the region, particularly in a context in which the Southern Cone countries have established mechanisms such as Truth Commissions or Commissions for Peace, in order to guarantee the right to memory, truth and justice, especially for the victims of dictatorships and their families," says Jorge Grandi, Director of the UNESCO Montevideo Office.
It is hoped that over time, all archives related to human rights violations during the region’s military dictatorships will be listed in the Memory of the World Registry, so that these abuses will never occur again.