Worldwide records and archives documenting grave violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law are too often at risk of destruction or alteration for a number of reasons, including political pressure, war, neglect and natural disasters. This applies particularly to records and archives relevant to peacebuilding and to addressing ongoing and past atrocities. To preserve the information, civil society organizations and state institutions at times need to place a safe copy of their archive and records abroad.
As such arrangements come with their own set of challenges around ownership, preservation, access, amongst others, in 2018, the International Council for Archives endorsed the Guiding Principles for Safe Havens for Archives at Risk which give orientation in such situations. These Principles and several documents to complement them have been developed by an international expert working group. swisspeace has been mandated to coordinate this group by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland.Background
Since 2011, the Task Force for Dealing with the Past and Prevention of Atrocities of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) has been mandating swisspeace to provide support in the protection, preservation and management of archives and records relevant for Dealing with the Past (DwP). In this context, swisspeace has been working closely with the FDFA as well as the Swiss Federal Archives (SFA), to provide process support, training and capacity building to various state and non-state actors in contexts of political transition.
In 2015, the FDFA and swisspeace initiated a high-level policy exchange on the topic of archives at risk. Later on, in October of the same year, an international conference entitled «Securing archives at risk» was held. Subsequently, in October 2016, an international expert-working meeting on the topic of «Safe havens for archives at risk» was convened. On this occasion, an ad-hoc international Working Group consisting of representatives of international, governmental, and non-governmental institutions was established and had the task to develop guiding principles for safe haven arrangements. Once these guiding principles were endorsed by the International Council on Archives (ICA) and the Latin American Association of Archivists (ALA), the Working Group published a Commentary to the “Guiding Principles for Safe Havens for Archives at Risk” and a Generic Agreement.
In September 2019, the Working Group was transformed into the Advisory Committee on Safe Havens for Archives at Risk, with swisspeace currently acting as its secretariat.Visit the website Safe Havens for Archives.