Nelson Mandela Foundation

The International Council on Archives offers the Universal Declaration on Archives course. 

The course focuses on the story of how the universal declaration came into being, what it is all about (including an introduction to the principles and concepts of archives and records management) and how it can be used for advocacy and evaluation work. It is a beginner level course suitable for anyone in any field who wants to gain a thorough understanding of the Universal Declaration on Archives and how it can be used to support records and archives management, accountability, transparency and memory.


The 2006 Quebec Declaration on Archives inspired the Universal Declaration on Archives. In 2007, the International Council on Archives (ICA) directed the Section of Professional Associations (SPA) to prepare a Universal Declaration on Archives following the Quebec model. The Declaration was unanimously adopted at the 2010 ICA AGM in Oslo.

UNESCO formally endorsed it in Paris at the 36th Session of its General Conference on 10 November 2011.

How can the Foundation's Archive & Research department use the UDA to evaluate the work and assess successes?

There are various ways of evaluating archives and records management programmes; one is by assessing against a standard or a set of criteria that can be used to judge whether the project meets the Foundation's criteria. There might be a pass or fail a level whereby the project ‘fails’ if it does not meet enough criteria. Another way is to measure the programme against the performance of other similar projects. To take a concrete example, the Declaration states: Records and archives record and provide evidence of decisions, actions and memories.

In an organisational context, this raises a set of questions: Have all records been identified? Have all archives been identified? Do they provide evidence of decisions, actions and memories? Is anything missing?

How can the Foundation utilise the UDA as an advocacy tool?

UDA advocacy tool is a vital necessity of archives for supporting business efficiency, accountability and transparency, for protecting citizens’ rights, for establishing individual and collective memory, for understanding the past, and for documenting the present to guide future actions, including:

  • Appropriate national archival policies and laws are adopted and enforced;
  • The management of archives is valued and carried out competently by all bodies, private or public, which create and use archives in the course of conducting their business;
  • Adequate resources are allocated to support the proper management of archives, including the employment of trained professionals;
  • Archives are managed and preserved in ways that ensure their authenticity, reliability, integrity and usability;
  • Archives are made accessible to everyone while respecting the pertinent laws and the rights of individuals, creators, owners and users.
  • It raising awareness of these issues requires a multi-disciplinary approach and involves collaboration between archivists, records managers, archival institutions, professional associations and a wide range of stakeholder groups.

What have I learnt from the ICA UDA course?

I have learnt that the Declaration is an essential step towards improved understanding and awareness of archives among the general public and key decision-makers. It is a powerful, concise statement of the relevance of archives in modern society. I have gained a thorough knowledge of the UDA, its content and history, and a better understanding of the work of archivists and records managers. I also learnt how to benchmark the NMF against the UDA, using or adapting the UDA checklist.  Moreover, I have discovered how to use the UDA as a practical and relevant tool in advocating archives and records and their management and marketing and communication purposes.