November 2004

Unesco’s Charter

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Considering that the disappearance of heritage in whatever form constitutes an impoverishment of the heritage of all nations, the Constitution of UNESCO provides that the organisation will maintain, increase and diffuse knowledge, by assuring the conservation and protection of the world's inheritance of books, works of art and monuments of history and science. Its 'Information for All' programme provides a platform for discussions and action on information policies and the safeguarding of recorded knowledge. Its 'Memory of the World' programme aims to ensure the preservation and universal accessibility of the world's documentary heritage. Such resources of information and creative expression could be increasingly produced, distributed, accessed and maintained in digital form, creating a new legacy -the 'Digital Heritage'. Access to this heritage will offer broadened opportunities for creation, communication and sharing of knowledge among all people. Understanding that this digital heritage is at risk of being lost and that its preservation for the benefit of present and future generations is an urgent issue of worldwide concern.

Among the adopted 12 principles in the form of articles, we are here providing you the content of 'Article 10, 11 and 12' that speak about the roles and responsibilities of partner organisations as well as UNESCO, towards the preservation of heritage globally. The digital heritage of all regions, countries and communities should be preserved and made accessible, so as to assure over time representation of all people, nations, cultures and languages.

Article 10 – Roles and responsibilities
Member State may wish to designate one or more agencies to take coordinating responsibility for the preservation of digital heritage, and to make available necessary resources. The sharing of tasks and responsibilities may be based on existing roles and expertise.

Measures should be taken to:

a.      Urge hardware and software developers, creators, publishers, producers and distributors of digital materials as well as other private sector partners to cooperate with national libraries, archives, museums and other public heritage organisations in preserving the digital heritage

b.      Develop training and research, and share experience and knowledge among the institutions and professional associations concerned

c.       Encourage universities and other research organisations, both public and private, to ensure preservation of research data.

Article 11- Partnerships and cooperation
Preservation of the digital heritage requires sustained efforts on the part of governments, creators, publishers, relevant industries and heritage institutions.

In the face of the current digital divide, it is necessary to reinforce international cooperation and solidarity to enable all countries to ensure creation, dissemination, preservation and continued accessibility of their digital heritage. Industries, publishers and mass communication media are urged to promote and share knowledge and technical expertise.

The stimulation of education and training programmes, resource-sharing arrangements, and dissemination of research results and best practices will democratise access to digital preservation techniques.

Article 12- The role of UNESCO

a.      Take the principles set forth in this Charter into account in the functioning of its programmes and promote their implementation within the United Nations system and by inter-governmental and international non-governmental organisations concerned with the preservation of the digital heritage.

b.      Serve as a reference point and a forum where Member States, inter-governmental and international non-governmental organisations, civil society and the private sector may join together in elaborating objectives, policies and projects in favour of the preservation of the digital heritage.

c.       Foster cooperation, awareness-raising and capacity-building, and propose standard ethical, legal and technical guidelines to support the preservation of the digital heritage.

d.      Determine on the basis of the experience gained over the next six years in implementing the present Charter and the Guidelines, whether there is a need for further standard-setting instruments for the promotion and preservation of the digital heritage

This Charter was adopted by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation during its 32nd session, October 2003.

Source: UNESCO publication for the World Summit on Information Society


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