Access to official documents is crucial – let’s make it a reality

People have the right to know what those in power are doing. This was the basis on which the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents was adopted more than ten years ago in Tromsø, Norway. This Convention is the first binding international legal instrument to recognise a general right of access to official documents held by public authorities. It establishes minimum rules for the prompt and fair processing of requests for access to official documents, including an obligation for states to secure access to effective and independent review procedures when access is denied. Under the Convention, all official documents are, in principle, public and can be withheld subject only to the protection of other rights and legitimate interests.

Following the ratification of the Tromsø Convention by Ukraine, the tenth state to ratify, it will enter into force on 1 December 2020.[1] This is a much anticipated development as access to official documents is essential for transparency, good governance and participatory democracy and a key means of facilitating the exercise of other human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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The right to freedom of information

Although we are living in the age of the information society, in which we are exposed to huge amounts of opinions and data, access to quality information remains hard to come by in many Council of Europe member states.

[1] The Convention will enter into force on 1 December 2020 in respect of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Montenegro, Norway, the Republic of Moldova, Sweden and Ukraine.


 Commissioner for Human Rights website

Council of Europe

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