Understanding Records Management

Records management is “responsible for the efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use and disposition of records, including processes for capturing and maintaining evidence of and information about business activities and transactions in the form of records”. - ST/SGB/2007/5 Record-keeping and the management of United Nations archives.

We all rely on information to help us work effectively and to build the knowledge for ourselves and the Organization. Records management is the efficient and systematic control of the creation, receipt, maintenance, use and disposition of records. Records management is the process of identifying and protecting evidence, which comes in the form of records.

In this section, you can learn about how to define a record, and what the records lifecycle looks like.

Records Management 101

The Archives and Records Management Section has created a series of quick reference guides (a basic overview of records management practices) and a records management guidance series (a more in-depth look for staff members who use records management in their daily work). Please refer to them if you have questions about your day-to-day records management activities. If you have any further questions, please contact us.

Quick Reference sheets

Records Management Guidance series

For specific standards, forms and guidelines, please visit our Policy page. 

What are Records?

Records are "information created, received, and maintained as evidence and information by an organization or person, in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business". This is the official definition. What does it mean in the context of our work? It means that whenever you create or receive a document in the course of your work and it provides evidence of an activity, decision, or transaction, you need to keep it as evidence, according to established UN retention schedules. That document becomes a record and must be stored safely so it remains accessible for as long as it's needed. 




What is the concept?

 

What does it mean to you?

Information is “data, ideas, thoughts, or memories irrespective of medium.” Information sources are considered “non-records”: they are useful but do not provide evidence. Examples include journals, newspapers, publications, or reference sources not created by the UN.

 

If the item in question provides information only and does not provide evidence of an activity, decision, or transaction related to your work at the UN, you should destroy the information when you no longer need it.

 

 

 

Documents are any “recorded information or objects that can be treated as individual units.” Examples include works in progress such as draft communications or “to do” lists, and transitory records such as emails confirming a meeting or acknowledging receipt of a document.

 

If a document is superseded by other documents, such as a draft report that is replaced by a newer version, and the first draft is not needed as evidence,
or if the document contains information that you need for only a short time – like a confirmation of the location of a meeting – you should destroy the document when you no longer need it.

 

 

 

Records are “information created, received, and maintained as evidence and information by an organization or person, in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business.” Examples include final reports, emails confirming an action or decision, spreadsheets showing budget decisions, photographs or maps of field missions, which need to be kept as evidence.

 

If you created or received the document in the course of your work and it provides evidence of an activity, decision, or transaction, you need to keep it as evidence, according to established UN retention schedules. That document becomes a record and must be stored safely so it remains accessible.

 

 

 

Archives are those records that have been selected for permanent preservation because of their administrative, informational, legal and historical value as evidence of official business of the UN. Archives are very small but important subset of the UN’s official records.

 

UN ARMS is responsible for helping you manage your records in order to protect valuable evidence of UN operations. UN ARMS also ensures records with archival value are preserved and made available.

What is the records lifecycle? 

All information and records go through a lifecycle. Knowing what stages records go through helps with identifying the most important activities that need to happen to protect and properly organize the Organization's records. 

 

The first phase - Create/receive - starts when records are either received from an external source or created internally. The objectives of this initial stage are: 

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Create complete and accurate records that provide evidence of the organization’s functions, activities, decisions, transactions, procedures, etc.

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Identify and apply an appropriate security classification

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Distinguish between records and non-record copies or working documents, to be able to appropriately segregate them in the filing system

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