Records Transfer & Disposal
Records Transfer & Disposal
United Nations records must be disposed of once their retention period has expired. Records disposition means either destruction or transfer to ARMS Record Centre. The disposal actions for UN records are governed by approved retention schedules.
These procedures are intended for UN Staff located at Headquarters. Staff in Peacekeeping Missions or DPA Political Missions should refer to the Peacekeeping Records Management Toolkit, section 16 and always contact the Archives and Records Management (ARMS) before shipping records to Headquarters.
Review retention schedules
Retention Schedules should be reviewed prior to transfer, some records may not be subject to transfer to ARMS. If your office does not have a retention schedule or you are unsure, contact ARMS. (If you do not receive a response within 72 hours, please resubmit your request.)
Substantive records or records that are generated as a result of your Office’s main functions should be separated from the records that are needed for the day- to-day operations of the office or used as reference. The latter records are usually administrative in nature,they are covered by the RCUN retention schedule. In most cases, they should not be transferred to ARMS.
Organise your records
The first step is to divide the records into records series. Series is a group of records arranged in accordance with a filing system or maintained as a unit because they result from the same accumulation or filing process, or as a result of the same activity. The records series are listed in your retention schedule. Examples of records series are: Official status files, contract files, staff medical files, journal vouchers, air safety inspection reports, etc.
Once you have identified and grouped the record series to be transferred, you may proceed and complete the eletronic form. Access to ARMS Record Transfer Request form available through the UN Intranet site iSeek. Comprehensive instructions on how to use this form is also available.
Using the electronic form
How to pack the records for transfer?
- Box Contents. Files belonging to the same series and having the same retention period should be packed together.
- Non-Records, Blank Forms and Personal Items. Blank forms, personal items and printed United Nations documents and publications collected for informational purposes should be weeded before packing records.
- Filing Supplies. Active records should have been filed in manila or pressboard folders. If they were not, the ring binder should be removed and the records should be placed in labelled manila folders before packing. Excess filing supplies, such as hanging folders, file guides/dividers and binder clips should be removed.
- File Sequence. Files should be arranged in record plan or file list order.
- Box Limit. No more than one foot of records should be placed in a box to prevent the overfilling of boxes.
- Box Numbering. Offices should write their acronyms and a box number on the two sides of the box. Box numbering should include the specific and total box numbers, ex. 1/12, 2/12, 3/12, 4/12 etc.
- Box Label. When the transfer request has been reviewed by ARMS, ARMS will provide and affix Bar Code Labels to the record boxes in order to track location and manage the records.
Whether records are in the custody of the originating office and/or in the custody of ARMS, most records are eventually destroyed. Some records are destroyed after 2 to 5 years, while others, such as personnel or medical records are retained for a much longer period. A small volume of records are kept permanently as archives because of their historical or informational value. ARMS describes and catalogues these records and the information is then used to provide guides for future researchers.
While records should not be destroyed when there is still a need for them, it is also important not to keep records longer than is necessary, to minimise storage costs and enhance retrieval efficiency. If a decision is made to retain records longer than the minimum retention period a record of the reasons for the decision should be documented to assist disposal at a later date.
The destruction of all records must be documented, so that your Business Unit is able to ascertain whether a record has been destroyed. Proof of destruction may be required in investigation proceedings or in response to access requests. Senior Management approval is required prior to disposal of all records that have reached the end of assigned retention period.
Records disposal in UN offices
If the Business Unit has an approved retention schedule, the record may be disposed ‘in-situ’. In order to dispose of these records, eligible Offices at Headquarters do not need to contact ARMS, instead they should request a recycling hamper, and for sensitive records, a lockable secure container. Hampers and lockable containers can be obtained through an online work order (MP2) and sent to Facilities Management Services (FMS). Depending on the department, sensitive records may also be shredded ‘in-house’.
Records should always be disposed of with the same level of security that was maintained during the life of the records. Please note that extra care should be given to records containing sensitive personal information.
Disposal by ARMS
For records that have been transferred to ARMS, there are two levels of authorization which are required for the destruction of the records. ARMS will follow the approved retention schedule and send a list of records due for disposal to a Senior Official in Business Unit which owns the records for approval. Once approval is received by the originating office, the Chief of ARMS will give final authorization for destruction. ARMS does not dispose of records without the consent of the relevant Business Unit.
Once the destruction has taken place, ARMS will send the Business Unit a certificate of destruction. The certificate of destruction should be placed on a file together with any other destruction documentation, for example, records of internal approval and the retention schedule number used to authorize the destruction. A record of the method of destruction should also be placed on the file if this is not already marked on the certificate of destruction. You may also wish to keep a destruction register that would link individual records to be destroyed to consignments sent for destruction. This register, together with a certificate of destruction, will serve as proof that records have actually been destroyed.
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