Faced with the growing danger of loss of valuable information that determine the world’s legacy of knowledge, the identity, history and values of humankind, UNESCO strives to sensitize governments, relevant institutions and the public at large of the importance to preserve information for present and future generations. Documentary heritage is the memory of humankind, but is under constant threat of disappearing forever.
The first and most urgent need is to ensure the preservation of documentary heritage that has world significance. It is also important to make this heritage accessible to as many people as possible, using the most appropriate technologies. Therefore UNESCO takes actions aimed at safeguarding documentary and audiovisual heritage through the Memory of the World Programme. Its vision is that the world's documentary heritage belongs to all, should be fully preserved, protected and permanently accessible to all without hindrance.
Preservation, access to and dissemination of information relies on the stability of documents and the retrievability of their content. Paradoxically, technical developments often result in greater instability and shorter lifespans of documents, therefore, while clay tablets can survive for several millennia, audiovisual documents will only last a few decades and digitally-born heritage may not exceed ten years.
Awareness of the need to safeguard digital documentary heritage resulted in the adoption of "UNESCO Charter on the Preservation of the Digital Heritage", and the UNESCO/UBC Vancouver Declaration for implementation by UNESCO, its Member States, professional associations and industry.