The formulation of knowledge society policies and the revision of information legal frameworks are priority issues for archivists, librarians and other information professionals in the English and Dutch Speaking Caribbean, regarding UNESCO’s Information for All Programme (IFAP), and the Memory of World (MOW) Programmes. Working more actively in these areas by improving the existing policies and frameworks is one of the key recommendations coming out of a workshop on IFAP and MOW organized by the UNESCO Kingston Cluster Office for the Caribbean in collaboration with the St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) National Commission for UNESCO.
The workshop was held on 19 and 20 March 2018 for countries and territories in the Eastern Caribbean. Several concrete aspects related to the implementation of this recommendation were also discussed by the 36 delegates from Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Grenada, Sint Maarten, St. Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines who had gathered in Prospect, SVG to map the way forward for IFAP and MOW, two of UNESCO’s Communication and Information Sector’s flagship programmes in the Caribbean.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the workshop, the Minister of Education of the St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), and Chairperson of the SVG National Commission for UNESCO, the Honorable, St Clair Jimmy Prince declared “any effort to facilitate the preservation of our heritage is more than welcome in a country where our documented history and culture leaves much to be desired’. This was the general sentiment of the workshop participants who were eager to re-energize the IFAP and MOW Committees in their respective countries. Advisor for Communication and Information at the UNESCO Kingston Cluster Office for the Caribbean, Ms Isabel Viera pledged UNESCO’s support for the delegates in their future efforts to set up and maintain their national IFAP and MOW Committees and underlined the importance of the priorities in both programs towards reaching the SDGs.
In addressing the participants online, Ms. Chafica Haddad, Chair of the IFAP Council and Deputy Permanent Delegate of Grenada to UNESCO, pointed out that “IFAP is a unique intergovernmental Programme with objectives to meet the challenges of the information society by creating better access to information by ensuring equitable access to all by addressing the digital divide”. She addressed the growing ethical challenges like mobbing and violence at schools through social networks, fake news, or use of DarkNet that are part of IFAP priorities.
The overall importance of supporting SDGs through the IFAP priorities was the message of the IFAP Chair: “The focus of the 2030 SDGs on national outcomes further underscores the importance of strong national IFAP structures. IFAP’s six strategic priorities represent an important contribution to achieving the 17 goals, and the broader vision of sustainable actions for people, planet and prosperity articulated in the Sustainable Development Agenda.” In addition, the IFAP Chair stressed the importance of 2019 as the International Year for Indigenous Languages for the promotion of use of multilingualism for sustainable development.
Also speaking virtually was the Programme Specialist for the Memory of the World Programme at UNESCO Headquarters, Mr. Fackson Banda who reminded participants that the Memory of the World Programme was celebrating last year its 25th anniversary, stating that, “the milestone highlighted the significance of MOW”. Mr. Banda also prompted the participants to take part in the ongoing global survey on the MOW Programme, to let the voices of the Caribbean be heard. He also recapped the three main objectives of MOW i) preserving documentary heritage ii) providing universal access and iii) raising awareness on documentary heritage through the MOW Registers at national, regional and international levels.
Other presentations included “Digital Media – Its importance in developing human capacity to transform Small Island Developing States”, by Apollo Knights, Director of the SVG National Telecom Regulatory Commission, who gave a detailed analysis of how information technology was impacting the society in SVG and “MOW; Documenting our Heritage Through Digitalization” by SVG Coordinator for the Indian Diaspora Council, Dr. Arnold Thomas and Mr. Cordell Mathews, Archivist. In thanking the workshop organizers, Mr. Alphonso Bligden from Sint Maarten commented “I am happy to be at this workshop because we in St. Maarten and the rest of the Caribbean need to find ways to protect the documents in our archives especially because of hurricanes”.
UNESCO plans to host a similar workshop on IFAP and MOW in October 2018 for the Southern and Western Caribbean.
UNESCO launched the MoW Programme in 1992 to guard against collective amnesia through the preservation of valuable archive holdings and library collections all over the world. In so doing, the programme also ensures wider access to such heritage. The programme is thus intended to protect documentary heritage, and to help networks of experts to exchange information and raise resources for the preservation of, and the access to, documentary and archival collections of valuable records.