Latest News, MEIG Highlights 11 juin 2024

Highlight 22/2024 – Promoting Transparency and Accountability: Digital Preservation and Access Strategies in the Governance of the United Nations

Wan Ashrul Amahl bin Mohamad Azmi, 11 June 2024

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In the current digital age, systems of governance all around the world face significant challenges relating to transparency and accountability. This affects not only individual countries at the national level but is especially relevant to international organisations like the United Nations (UN). One of the critical aspects in addressing this issue is the ability of governing bodies to ensure the accessibility and accountability of data and information. By leveraging digital technologies for information management, individual countries and international organisations can enhance transparency, facilitate accountability, and ensure the preservation of valuable institutional knowledge.

The UN and its affiliated bodies are well known for their exceptional transparency – an element which is ingrained within the organisation’s structure and operations. Documents detailing its activities and decisions across all levels of operation are consistently shared and disseminated. Meetings and events conducted by UN bodies are also routinely open to public observation, with many sessions broadcast live online. One such platform is the UN Web TV that provides a more transparent structure of the organisation. In addition, drawing inspiration from UN Reform initiatives and the Secretary-General’s Data Strategy, the UN introduced the UN Transparency Gateway. This initiative aims to enhance accessibility to transparency-related information concerning the collective system of UN organisations.

As one of the oldest multilateral organisations that exists to this day, it is imperative for the UN to preserve its assets digitally as an important legacy and reference for future generations. This digital preservation involves the long-term storage and maintenance of digital assets, including documents, data, historical records and cultural heritage in order to foster deeper understanding of diverse knowledge and contribute to the global tapestry of human history. For the UN, which generates vast amounts of information in relation to global diplomacy, peacekeeping operations, and development initiatives, preserving this digital heritage is essential for historical record-keeping and future decision-making. By adopting robust digital preservation standards and technologies, the UN can safeguard its records against loss, degradation, or unauthorised alteration.

Digital preservation also supports transparency by enabling timely and secure access to archived information. Access strategies, including open data initiatives and online repositories, empower stakeholders, researchers, and the public to explore UN documents and datasets, fostering greater transparency in the organisation’s operations. For instance, initiatives like the UN Digital Library provide a centralised platform for accessing official UN documents, publications, and research materials, promoting openness and accountability. Digital access strategies such as the one mentioned above contribute to accountability within the UN governance framework.

Implementing effective digital preservation and access strategies require investments in technology infrastructure, capacity-building, and data governance frameworks. It is also crucial to collaborate with technology experts in this area as how the UN Library and Archives in Geneva did in executing the Total Digital Access to the League of Nations Archives (LONTAD) project. Collaborative efforts to develop innovative solutions helps in enhancing the efficiency and transparency of UN operations. The UN also prioritises the development of secure and scalable digital systems that comply with international standards for data protection and privacy.

In summation, promoting transparency and accountability in the governance of the United Nations requires strategic investments in digital preservation and access strategies. By embracing digital technologies for information management, the UN can preserve its institutional memory, enhance stakeholder engagement, and foster greater trust among member states and the global community. Effective digital governance not only strengthens transparency and accountability but also advances the UN’s mission of promoting peace, security, and sustainable development worldwide.

Accountability is an end in itself, because it fosters transparency, improves results, and holds our institutions to agreed standards and commitments.” – Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Wan Ashrul Amahl bin Mohamad Azmi, Highlight 22/2024 – Promoting Transparency and Accountability: Digital Preservation and Access Strategies in the Governance of the United Nations, 11 June 2024, available at

The views expressed in the MEIG Highlights are personal to the authors and neither reflect the positions of the MEIG Programme nor those of the University of Geneva.


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