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22 octobre 2010 - Message à la conférence de SPP (Dakar, Sénégal)

Discours du Président du Conseil international des Archives à  la Conférence de SPP "Modernisation et développement durable : l'aide au processus législatif au 21e siècle"

Martin Berendse, Archiviste national des Pays-Bas, Dakar, Sénégal, (22 octobre 2010)

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished colleagues,

This summer I decided to accept your invitation to join this conference and I really looked forward to meet you in Dakar. Unfortunately I had to decide to stay in The Hague this month because the new government of the Netherlands announced a serious policy change on the archives. That is why I have to be “at home” for meetings and negotiations with officials and strategy discussions with my colleagues. Sometimes I have to choose between my role as president of ICA and my role as National Archivist of the Netherlands. These weeks my presence in the Netherlands is required.

This conference will focus on what there has been accomplished, what must still be done and what challenges must be addressed to safeguard societal memory of the democratic process. This Conference is therefore timely and significant.

Governments play an important role in the provision of access to information in countries across the world. We all see the tremendous possibilities that the information revolution brings for countries and individuals to realize their potentials. At the same time we share great concerns about the growing knowledge gaps and digital divide, which can leave poor people and poor countries more marginalized in the new global community. In African countries, for example, there are often weak legislations, policies, procedures and standards to guide the management of records. In addition, African countries lack the robust infrastructures that are a necessary precondition for the effective management of digital records. All too often archives have no influence and no voice at a high level, even when they depend on the presidency, or the Prime Minister Administration.

Colleagues over the World must combine their efforts, share knowledge and information, and exchange experiences so that all regions of the world, especially Africa, can have equal access to the societal memory.

We therefore need enabling policies and strategies to move forward, we need to form partnerships in and outside Africa to ensure access to information and knowledge.
What the International Council on Archives can do for Africa should be based on three principles:

  • Promoting Regionalization and decentralization, so that all projects take full account of local circumstances.
  • Building local capacity and expertise, so that dependence on external help is progressively reduced.
  • Repositioning the archives profession, so that it is clearly responsible for the management of records, in whatever medium, from the moment of their creation.

Ad 1) Last September I was installed as new president of the ICA for the next two years. As I have said then in my inauguration speech, regional branches are the heart of the ICA. Without flourishing regional branches, ICA cannot claim to be a truly global network. In a decentralised approach we can adopt more working languages and become more effective for all members. Therefore, a cooperation model which takes into account local cultures, but also respects international cooperation, would be needed. ICA could help colleagues to establish constructive dialogue with partners: developing a strategy paper as a basis for partnership with international organizations dealing with development or national cooperation agencies (for example, with the International Records Management Trust).

Ad 2) ICA should help developing capacities in project designing and management: workshops in the framework of CITRA 2011, and will be proposed to be organized in the framework of any regional branches conference. The PARBICA record keeping for good governance Toolkit could also help developing countries to make and keep good records.

Ad 3) Many of our fellow citizens still do not appreciate that archives play a fundamental role in transparency and accountability, in the protection of citizen’s rights and in safeguarding social memory. We must put this right.

ICA is the only organisation having the power to do this as it is an impartial, worldwide NGO, with a professional and not a political focus. When we implement the Universal Declaration on Archives (UDA) we should not preach to those who are already converted, but target the decision makers who allocate the resources to the archive institutions and to the programmes in which we should play a part.

ICA has limited financial resources, but it has experts, a worldwide network and the will to help you. It has also produced powerful tools that can help African archivists to do their job better. In addition to the Good Governance Toolkit, ICA has developed Principles and Functional Requirements for the Management of Electronic Records s so that archivists can assess critically the software that is offered by commercial companies. And it has pioneered a freely available open source software for the description of archives on the Internet known as ICA-AtoM. It provides these tools in a spirit of professional solidarity as its contribution to international cooperation.

It is unhealthy that any region of the world should become permanently dependent on support from ICA and other outside sources. The goal should be to develop capabilities and infrastructures within Africa.

It is my hope therefore, that all the organizations at this meeting will consolidate established partnerships and identify new ones. I hope further that these initiatives will provide the experiences and lessons that we can share with all the stakeholders in this process so that all (governments, private sector, civil society, partners) will make the necessary investments to build democratic and open societies.

I wish the Conference every success and looking forward to learning about the results.