Emergency preparedness plans are needed for memory institutions

This is the backdrop of a pilot survey conducted by UNESCO, through its Memory of the World (MoW) Programme. The survey aimed to assess the extent of disaster risk to which memory institutions had been exposed, and how they had addressed them as a matter of emergency preparedness.

Among other things, the survey concludes that:

  • 40 institutions had no written management plan in the event of any emergency or disaster, while 23 institutions confirmed having one.
  • The main disasters affecting the memory institutions surveyed included: floods; fire; theft; storms; earthquakes; hurricanes; and armed conflict. The survey report highlights how many such institutions were exposed to each of these disasters.
  • 27 institutions, about 42.85% of the total, identified the lack of adequate budget as the most indirect yet common cause for damages, affecting the long-term preservation of their documentary heritage collections.

The survey recommends, among other things, that memory institutions should enhance prevention and risk reduction practices in cooperation with local authorities and relevant institutions at national, regional and international levels.

Other recommendations include:

  • Enacting a strong emergency preparedness culture that includes sharing knowledge and experience with other experts, archives, libraries and museums.
  • Lobbying policymakers to strengthen public policies, update legal frameworks and reinforce national, regional and international cooperation to reduce risks and build capacities to handle emergencies. This is all the more important in light of increasing risks of public health crises and natural hazards caused by climate change.

Supported by Japanese Funds-in-Trust (JFIT) in the framework of a three-year project on “Preservation of Documentary Heritage through Policy Development and Capacity Building”, the study findings are expected to feed into UNESCO’s long-term strategy of identifying documentary heritage at risk and mobilizing international support for instituting corrective and preventive measures.

The Memory of the World (MoW) Programme was set up in 1992 for the purpose of safeguarding documentary heritage from destruction and enhancing universal access to it.

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