The UNESCO Memory of the World Programme hosted the 2nd Memory of the World Global Policy Forum from 21-22 September 2021.

The topic of the Global Policy Forum: Disaster Risk Reduction and Management for Sustainable Preservation of Documentary Heritage, was extremely timely, with the perspective of lessons-learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges ahead related to climate change.

Global Policy Forum Goals

The goal of the Forum was to bring many voices together in the process of developing an action framework, focussing on national, regional, and local engagement in disaster risk reduction (DRR), as it relates to the sustainable preservation of documentary heritage.

This Framework, informed by participation during the Global Policy Forum, is intended to embolden memory institutions to take steps to apply principles of DRR and management, and embolden policy makers to take steps to implement the UNESCO 2015 Recommendation [read more on that here].

Libraries in DRR

IFLA participated alongside colleagues representing archives, local government, and media outlets, as well as national, regional, and international heritage civil society organisations and UNESCO offices. Speaking on a panel “Knowing the Risk: Understanding disaster risk management and investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience”, IFLA’s representative shared insights into how helping libraries understand and invest in DRR contributes to sustainable preservation of documentary heritage, and how IFLA supports this effort.

She stressed that disaster risk reduction in libraries needed investment, as the loss of the documentary heritage material held in libraries would be a loss both to communities and their ability to fully enjoy their cultural rights, as well as the collective memory of humanity.

Beyond this, she emphasised that libraries build the resilience of their communities. She highlighted the address made by the Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights, Ms. Karima Bennoune, during the World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) 2021, in which she stressed that institutions like libraries have a core role in identifying, imagining, and constructing solutions to humanity’s most pressing challenges.

The IFLA representative encouraged the library professionals among the roughly 300 virtual attendees to  engage, sharing tips on actions they might take to help advocate for the inclusion of libraries in disaster risk reduction strategies at the national level.

IFLA Initiatives

Beyond this, several initiatives carried out by IFLA that work to help libraries build capacity for DRR were highlighted. These include documents such as The IFLA Principles of Engagement in library-related activities in times of conflict, crisis or disaster, the IFLA Disaster Preparedness and Planning: A Brief Manual, and useful Frequently Asked Questions guides from IFLA’s Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Centres.

Finally, she brought attention to the IFLA Risk Register – a confidential register that helps IFLA respond in times of disaster. Revisit the Risk Register and become more familiar with the application process and accompanying Toolkit here.

Next Steps

During this programme, UNESCO presented a draft of the “Strategic Framework for UNESCO’s Action for the Sustainable Preservation of Documentary Heritage through Disaster Risk Reduction and Management”. This Framework, as well as the Global Policy Forum, contributes to UNESCO’s project on Preservation of Documentary Heritage Through Policy Development and Capacity Building.

IFLA and other stakeholders are invited to share feedback on this draft Strategic Framework. IFLA will circulate a draft for comment when it is available.

We thank the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme for inviting us to take part in this Forum. IFLA stands ready to continue working with UNESCO and other international, regional, and national partners, and alongside our members, to advocate for the role of documentary heritage, and the memory institutions that safeguard it.