Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents


I’ve just discovered the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents:

It is presented as “the first binding international legal instrument to recognise a general right of access to official documents held by public authorities”.

It looks like it’s a great text, it was first signed in 2009 and yet it hasn’t entered into force yet :frowning: . Indeed, it needs to be ratified by 10 Member States to enter into force. But among the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe, only 9 have ratified it (Bosnia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Montenegro, Norway, Moldova, Sweden) and 6 have signed it but not yet ratified it (Belgium, Georgia, Serbia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Ukraine).

According to this document ( ):

“Countries like the UK, France, Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands were all present during the negotiation of the treaty,” according to Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access-Info. “Responding to civil society concerns that the treaty set a low standard, they argued that a minimum-standard Convention would attract more signatures. Why then have they not signed? Where is their commitment to the public’s right to know?”

In November 2018, the Council of Europe Directorate of Legal Advice said that: “Participation in the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents is not exclusively limited to member States of the Council of Europe. The Convention is also open for accession by other non-member States and international organisations” ( )

Would it be useful to start initiatives in Europe and elsewhere so that new States sign/ratify the Convention?


Just to fully cite two of the key documents mentioned above.

Council of Europe (18 June 2009). Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents — Treaty No 205. Has not entered into force as of February 2019.

Council of Europe (no date). Details of Treaty No 205 — Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents. Treaty Office, Council of Europe. Provides metadata.

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Thanks @robbiemorrison for the full citations! (I’m not sure the second link is the direct one though)

Looking at the second link and the list of signature, it looks like Ukraine recently (April 2018) signed the Convention. Any OKFN member in Ukraine who knows when Ukraine plan to ratify it? Ukraine ratification (10th Member State) would trigger the entry into force of the Convention :slight_smile:


San Marino and Iceland both signed the Convention on May 16th 2019 ( ). This brings the total number of signatures not followed by ratifications to 8. Does anyone at OKFN know if San Marino and Iceland intend to ratify the Convention?

There’s only 1 more ratification required for the Convention to enter into force…