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About the program

UNESCO launched the Memory of the World (MoW) Programme in 1992 to guard against the collective amnesia, calling upon the preservation of the valuable archive holdings and library collections all over the world and ensuring their wide dissemination. The Programme’s vision is that the world’s documentary heritage belongs to all, should be fully preserved and protected for all and, with due recognition of cultural mores and practicalities, should be permanently accessible to all without hindrance.  

The Programme’s objectives are thus to: 

  • Facilitate preservation of the world’s documentary heritage 
  • Catalyse universal access to documentary heritage 
  • Enhance public awareness worldwide of the significance of documentary heritage 

A Vanguard of the World’s Documentary Heritage  

Documentary heritage is a legacy of humankind, through which we can look back into the past, enrich our present lives, and look into the future with the boldness forged by enduring memories.  

That is why we all must be vigilant to safeguard our shared heritage, celebrate it as a marker of human civilization, and pass it on to the next generation. Documentary heritage is thus an important ingredient of Sustainable Development, linking all the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the cultural fabrics that hold societies together.  

The MoW Structure

The Memory of the World (MoW) Programme is implemented by UNESCO through a system of committees and support mechanisms operating at international, regional and national levels that conforms to the General Guidelines to Safeguard Documentary Heritage.

The International Advisory Committee (IAC) is the main body responsible for advising UNESCO on the planning and implementation of the Programme as a whole. It comprises 14 members serving in a personal capacity, appointed by the Director-General of UNESCO, and chosen for their authority in the field of documentary heritage.

Regional and national MoW committees are autonomous entities made up of documentary heritage professionals on the ground. They are a crucial part of the Programme and implement its strategy on national and regional levels. The success of the MoW Programme relies heavily on the drive, initiative and enthusiasm of regional and national committees. To facilitate exchange among the committees, the Programme organizes inter-regional conferences on pressing topics.

The 2015 UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Preservation of, and Access to, Documentary Heritage Including in Digital Form is the main normative instrument which helps guide the work of the Programme as a whole as well as that of the IAC and the regional and national committees. The national committees are the main vehicles for the implementation of the Recommendation at country level.