The 2nd newsletter of the ICA Human Rights Working group is now available; the highlight is the text of a paper presented by Tom Adami at the ICA Congress last July in Kuala Lumpur.  Adami spent eight years as archivist/information manager at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and is now working for the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).

Adami’s paper is largely about about recordkeeping within the UN Peacekeeping context, and recent capacity-building efforts in this regard.  The challenges are considerable, given the lack of an integrated recordkeeping system within the Department of Peacekeeping, and best practices which derive from a military influence.  This is changing, although at present only 4 out of 20 existing UNPK missions around the world have professional information managers/archivists.  He is eloquent in his belief, the result of his decade of work in Rwanda and Sudan, that archives are, should be, and can be an essential part of reconciliation in post-conflict contexts.  He also mentions the importance of audiovisual records in contexts where literacy levels are low,  and where oral traditions predominate:

“Audiovisual material in human rights archives would have a big impact because literacy is a problem. There isn’t only one way that people gain and use knowledge or pass on memories. In Africa it is the same. Oral traditions are well entrenched for instance. This is the case in Rwanda and rural Sudan so the written word has little impact in these areas. One would be
partially justified in stating that the criminal justice archives of the ICTR is an elitist construct imposed from the first world that excludes many of the affected community by the fact it has a language policy of English and French and any audiovisual material requires a higher level of expense to maintain and access.”

Adami is frank about his disillusionment at the failure of archival professional associations to advocate in the area of human rights, noting that – for example – the International Council on Archives (ICA)  has sections devoted to sports and architecture but not to human rights (NB: the ICA’s HR Working Group was established in 2003; In October 2008 the ICA’s executive board afforded the group a more ‘official’ status  as outlined here.)

Also in the newsletter: an announcement for an upcoming conference, coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Archives and Human Rights International Forum; Mexico City, December 10 & 11, 2008. There is little yet in the way of a program or details, but I’ll post more when available.

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