UNESCO supports Rwanda to establish a national Memory of the World Committee

The creation of a national committee in Rwanda will help the country to develop a strategy and plan for the identification, preservation and accessibility of its documentary heritage.

Mr. Albert Mutesa, Secretary-General of the Rwanda National Commission for UNESCO, said this during a consultative workshop on the preservation of documentary heritage organized from 24 to 25 March 2021 by the National Commission for UNESCO with the support of UNESCO and in close collaboration with the Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy (RCHA) as well as the Kigali Public Library.

The two-day training workshop equipped 20 managers drawn from various memory institutions with knowledge about the UNESCO Memory of the World (MoW) Programme as well as about documentary heritage elements available in various formats and institutions in Rwanda. Participants included librarians, curators, archivists, directors of memory institutions, historians, researchers, academics and individual specialists from civil society, private and public institutions working in historical, cultural and documentary heritages fields.

It also sensitized participants to the importance of preserving the rich documentary heritage of the country, with the establishment of the national Memory of the World committee as a vehicle towards that goal.

The newly established committee will thus coordinate, promote and advocate for the identification, preservation, public accessibility and possible inscription of Rwanda’s documentary heritage elements on national, regional and/or international registers for the Memory of the World.

During the workshop, participants were taken through different aspects of the Memory of the World Programme, including its objectives as well as the general guidelines governing the different registers.  Participants expressed their appreciation for the workshop.

Group exercises provided an opportunity for all participants to have a shared understanding of the principles underpinning the selection of documentary heritage items based on the UNESCO general guidelines for the preservation and accessibility of documentary heritage.

More specifically, through these exercises and other aspects of the workshop, participants generated key recommendations, including the need for:

Drafting national guidelines/ strategies for the preservation of documentary heritage in Rwanda;
Urgent operationalization of the established National Memory of the World Committee in Rwanda;
Establishment of a coordination mechanism for inscribing and approving national documentary heritage items;
Identification and preparation of a list of national documentary heritage and mobilizing different stakeholders for approval and availing for public access;
Increased number of higher education institutions which are providing archival and documentation studies;
Strengthening archives management in the Government and non-governmental institutions in a harmonized way;
Establishment of a national register for Rwanda’s documentary heritage.

This workshop further allowed a compilation of a list of institutions in Rwanda that hold documentary heritage elements, and served as a platform for the identification and composition of the membership of the National Committee for Memory of the World for Rwanda. To this end, a key outcome was that the newly established national committee is now chaired by Nyirabahizi Beata, Director in charge of National Archives and Library in Rwanda.

Rwanda has now become the fourth country in Eastern Africa to set up such a committee. The other countries are Kenya, Seychelles, and Uganda.

This activity was supported by UNESCO Memory of the World Programme, which was set up in 1992 to recognize the importance of identifying, preserving and providing access to documentary heritage of world and historical significance.

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