UNESCO, in partnership with the Qatar National Library (QNL) organised a regional conference on “Supporting documentary heritage preservation in the Arab region”, held in Doha, Qatar on 1-2 December.

The rich documentary heritage tradition of the Middle East and North Africa is of extraordinary cultural and historic significance. Yet, these collections are facing a myriad of challenges – ranging from neglect, natural decay and inadequate housing, to looting and deliberate destruction.

All conference delegates posing together at the Qatar National Library.

Therefore, the goals of this conference were to share knowledge gained from the UNESCO-QNL survey on documentary heritage in the region, and bring experts together to present best practices, strengthen networks and highlight initiatives and strategies at the national and regional levels.

IFLA was represented by President Christine Mackenzie, Jeanne Drewes, Chair of the Preservation and Conservation Section, and Claire McGuire, IFLA Policy and Research Officer.

In addition, the IFLA Preservation and Conservation (PAC) Centre hosted by the QNL was central in the organising of this conference. The Centre’s Director Stephane Ipert and Specialist Maxim Nasra both represented the PAC Centre at the conference, providing an excellent example of how the PAC Centre Programme can promote regional knowledge-sharing.

In her keynote address, President Christine Mackenzie demonstrated the strong dedication IFLA has to building networks, creating tools and promoting capacity-building through our strategic programmes in cultural heritage preservation.

“Let’s work together” was the main take-away from her address, urging all delegates to seek cooperation and collaborative solutions to preserving their documentry hertiage. 

Christine Mackenzie participating in a Panel Discussion at the QNL/UNESCO Conference.

Jeanne Drewes, Chair of the Preservation and Conservation Section, contributed to a panel discussion on Disaster Risk Prevention and Response, with a focus on countries in conflict. She shared a number of useful tools and guidelines which can be put into immediate action towards risk prevention and recovery.

Policy and Research Officer Claire McGuire represented IFLA as moderator of a panel discussion on strengthening regional efforts to mobilise partnerships. This was the final panel of the conference and focussed on keeping the momentum going through opportunities for networking, fundraising and establishing best practices.

The key outcome from this conference was the signing of the Declaration to Support Preservation of Documentary Heritage in the Arab Region. This Declaration was drafted by IFLA, the QNL and UNESCO, with input from the delegates. It calls on governments and governmental organisations at all levels to recognise fully the importance of documentary heritage and take measures towards its protection and access.

The final text of the Declaration to Support Preservation of Documentary Heritage in the Arab Region will be shared as soon as it becomes available.