05 September 2016

Secretary-General's message to Opening Ceremony of the International Council on Archives Congress

It is an honour to greet the 2016 Congress of the International Council on Archives.

Your work is critical to ensuring that the memory of the world is preserved and made available to people everywhere. The more we are aware of our history -- accomplishments and atrocities alike -- the more we can learn from our past and build peaceful, tolerant societies.

Archives play an especially important role in support of justice and reconciliation. The UN’s holdings include the records of some of the worst crises of recent decades.  But those documents also tell the story of a compassionate international community coming together to respond to them through peacekeeping, humanitarian and human rights initiatives, truth and reconciliation commissions, and many other of activities.

Having archives preserved and accessible not only supports historical research, but also demonstrates openness and transparency. For the United Nations, as an Organization accountable to the entire world, this is a key task, and we make as many of our archives available as possible. In this spirit, as did my predecessor Kofi Annan, all of my records from my term are being catalogued and digitized, and the vast majority will be made available on the website of the UN Archives next year.

When I see photographs of children in the archives of the United Nations Korean Reconstruction Agency and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, I recall my own experiences as a young person caught up in armed conflict and poverty. These images are a reminder of the importance of global solidarity – and of how far we still have to go in addressing the world’s ills.

Archivists are among the curators of history.  Your work, which often goes unrecognized, makes indispensable contributions to our shared efforts to promote peace and human dignity for all.  I wish you every success as you address the many challenges that confront archives in the 21st century, in particular as you continue to face the abundance of digital records that require preservation.  Please accept my best wishes for a fruitful Congress.