“The recognition that archives and archivists play a central role in undergirding human rights has grown over the last decade.”

So asserts the recently released report on the Right to Truth from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights;  the report includes in particular a set of best  practices relating to archives and records for effective implementation of this right.

There is a clear evolution here, from the  Universal Declaration of Human Rights principle of a Right to Information; to the concepts of a Right to Know and a Duty to Remember, in the Joinet/Orentlicher  Principles to combat Impunity;  to an even stronger articulation here, of a Right to the Truth.

Also from the report:  “When a period characterized by widespread or systematic  human rights abuses comes to an end, people who suffered under the old regime find themselves able to assert their rights and to begin dealing with their past.  As they exercise their newly freed voices, they are likely to make four types of demands of the transitional state, namely demands for truth, justice, reparations and institutional reforms to prevent a recurrence of violence.  Each of these demands relies on the availability of archives.”

Today begins Archives Month;  later this month, October 27th , is World Day for Audiovisual Heritage.  To mark both of these occasions  we’d like to amplify the topic of Archives and Human Rights, through this blog, and through a series of videos to be highlighted later this month on the Hub.  What is a human rights archive?  How do archives support human rights?  What are the most pressing issues in the field today?    What can be done to strengthen the ability of archives to promote and support human rights?

Despite the increasing recognition of value and need noted by the UNHCHR, the challenges  for documentation centers and archives are daunting, and range from poor documentation on the ground to the long-term preservation of increasingly ephemeral media.   What can be done?  What is being done?  We’d love to hear from anyone who can contribute to this topic.

– Grace

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