The rich documentary heritage tradition of the Middle East and North Africa is of extraordinary cultural and historic significance. Yet, these collections are facing a myriad of challenges – ranging from neglect, natural decay and inadequate housing, to looting and deliberate destruction. Against this backdrop, UNESCO, in partnership with the Qatar National Library (QNL), organized a regional conference on “Supporting documentary heritage preservation in the Arab region”, held in Doha, Qatar on 1-2 December. The conference aimed to strengthen collaboration between memory institutions and conservation practitioners in the region and to present the findings of UNESCO's survey on documentary heritage in the Arab region.
The two-day conference featured delegates from institutions in Qatar, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia, Syria and Yemen. UNESCO Beirut was represented by Programme Specialist of Communication & Information George Awad. During the conference, international experts presented best practices on preservation and conservation and highlight initiatives and strategies implemented at the national or regional level to preserve and promote documentary heritage throughout the region.
The conference was also an opportunity to present the main objectives of UNESCO-QNL joint project and upcoming plans as part of this partnership, including awareness raising and capacity-building opportunities. It is hoped that this conference will help to strengthen professional networks working to ensure protection, preservation and promotion of documentary heritage in the Middle East and North Africa.
The key outcome from this conference was a declaration to support Preservation of Documentary Heritage in the Arab Region. This declaration was drafted by IFLA, the QNL and UNESCO, with input from the delegates. It calls on governments and governmental organizations at all levels to recognize fully the importance of documentary heritage and take measures towards its protection and access.