International Instruments and Standards
It is now widely recognized that the right to information is protected by the main human rights treaties and has developed into a norm of customary international law. This page provides links to relevant treaties and other instruments of intergovernmental organizations, as well as NGO Principles, Declarations and other normative statements. For summaries and links to judgments of international and regional courts and tribunals, go to Cases. International cases are also referenced elsewhere on the site, especially in sections accessed by the left-hand menu.
We will continue to add to the list and encourage you to Contact us for additions or corrections.
- Aarhus Convention (Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters), UN Economic Commission for Europe, 25 June 1998 (in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish)
- Convention against Corruption, General Assembly Resolution 58/4 of 31 October 2003. (in Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish)
- General Comment No. 34, UN Human Rights Committee, 12 September 2011, arguably constitutes an authoritative interpretation of the freedoms of opinion and expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is binding on more than 165 countries. See also commentary by Sandra Coliver, Open Society Justice Initiative
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, UN General Assembly Resolution 2200 A (XXI), 16 December 1966 (Article 19) and the First Optional Protocol
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN General Assembly Resolution 217 A (III), 10 December 1948 (Article 9)
- African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Good Governance, 30 January 2007
- African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/67/3 rev. 5, 21 I.L.M. 58 (1982), 27 June 1981 (Article 19) (in French)
- African Charter on Values and Principles of Public Service and Administration, Article 6, African Union, 2011
- African Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, (Article 9) African Union, 7 October 2003
- Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, 32nd Session, 17 - 23 October 2002, Banjul, The Gambia. Declaration affirms the right to information in Africa.
- Model Law on Access to Information for Africa, African Union, 2013.
- Outcome Statement of the International Conference on Access to African Supranational and Regional Law, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, 5-6 November 2012.
- Protocol A/SP1/12/01 on Democracy and Good Governance Supplementary to the Protocol of the ECOWAS Treaty on the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security, December 2001
- Regulation MSC/REG.1/01/08 on the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework, ECOWAS, 16 January 2008
- Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, 24 July 1993
- American Convention on Human Rights, "Pact of San José", 22 November 22 1969 (Article 13) (in Spanish)
- Inter-American Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 108th Regular Session, 19 October 2000 (preamble, Principle 3 and 4)
- Model Inter-American Law on Access to Information (in French, Portuguese, Spanish), June 7, 2011, Organization of American States.
- Principles on the Right of Access to Information, OAS, CJI/RES. 147 (LXXIII-O/08), 7 August 2008.
- Resolution on Access to Public Information: Strengthening Democracy, OAS General Assembly, AG/RES. 2514 (XXXIX-O/09), 4 June 2009.
Council of Europe
- Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), Council of Europe, 4 November 1950 (Article 10) (in French)
- Convention on Access to Official Documents, 27 November 2008 (in French), and Explanatory Report (in French). First multilateral treaty affirming and articulating an enforceable, general right to information that can be exercised by all persons, with no need to demonstrate a particular interest in the information requested.
- Declaration on the Freedom of Expression and Information, Committee of Ministers, 70th Session, 29 April 1982
- Recommendation CM/Rec(2008) 6 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on Measures to Promote the Respect for Freedom of Expression and Information with Regard to Internet Filters, 26 March 2008
- Recommendation Rec (2002) 2 of the Committee of Ministers on Access to Official Documents, 21 February 2002.
- Recommendation No. R (81) 19 of the Committee of Ministers on the Access to Information Held by Public Authorities, 25 November 1981
- Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union OJ C 364, 18 December 2000 (Article 42). Grants a right of access to documents held by European Union institutions to “[a]ny citizen of the Union, and any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State."
- Directive 2003/4/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on Public Access to Environmental Information, OJ 2003 L 41/26, 28 January 2003
- Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council regarding Public Access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents, OJ 2001 L 145, 30 May 2001 (in French, Spanish)
- Treaty on European Union and Declaration on the Right of Access to Information, OJ C 191, 29 July 1992, (available in other languages)
- Treaty of Lisbon, 2007/C 306/01, Lisbon, 13 December 2007 (in French, Spanish), expands the scope of the EC Regulation to apply to all EU institutions and all requesters
- 1999 Joint Declaration by the UN, OSCE & OAS Special Rapporteurs (on freedom of information and expression), 26 November 1999
- 2001 Joint Declaration by the UN, OSCE & OAS Special Rapporteurs on Challenges to Freedom of Expression in the New Century (on countering terror, on broadcasting and on the internet) , 20 November 2001
- 2004 Joint Declaration by the UN, OSCE, OAS & ACHPR Special Rapporteurs (on access to information and on secrecy legislation), 6 December 2004
- 2005 Joint Declaration by the UN, OSCE & OAS Special Rapporteurs (on the internet and on anti-terrorism measures), 28 December 2005
- 2006 Joint Declaration by the UN, OSCE, OAS & ACHPR Special Rapporteurs (on publishing confidential information, on openness of national and international public bodies, on freedom of expression and cultural/religious tensions, and on impunity in cases of attacks against journalists), 20 December 2006
- 2010 Joint Declaration by the UN, OSCE, OAS & ACHPR Special Rapporteurs on Ten Key Challenges to Freedom of Expression In the Next Decade, 2 February 2010
- 2010 Joint Statement by the UN and OAS Special Rapporteurs on Wikileaks, December 21, 2010
- 2010 Statement of UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Know: An Entitlement for All, Not a Favour , World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2010
- 2011 Joint Declaration by the UN, OSCE, OAS & ACHPR Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression and the Internet, 1 June 2011
- Access Info Europe, FOI Advocates Network, Open Society Justice Initiative, Manchester Declaration on Access to Information, May 24, 2006. Drafted by civil society organizations on a meeting to review and discuss the issues presented at the 4th International Conference of Information Commissioners.
- Africa Freedom of Information Center and the Media Institute of Southern Africa, Threat to Freedom, Democracy and Accountability in Zambia, 2010. Joint statement on deleting the right to information clause in the draft constitution of the Republic of Zambia.
- African Platform on Access to Information, Declaration, 2011 (in French, Portuguese).
- Alianza Regional por la Libertad de Expresion e Informacion, Declaración de Panamá de la Alianza Regional para la Libertad de la Expresión e Información.
- Article 19, Johannesburg Principles on National Security, Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, November 1996. Principles adopted by a group of experts in international law, national security, and human rights, convened by ARTICLE 19, the International Centre Against Censorship, in collaboration with the Centre for Applied Legal Studies of the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg.
- Article 19, Lima Principles of the Press Council of Peru / Consejo de la Prensa Peruana, Defensoría del Pueblo. (Ombudsman’s Office), November 16, 2000.
- Article 19, Model Freedom of Information Law, July 2001. A Model for a freedom of information law drafted by Toby Mendel, Head of Law Program at Article19.
- Article 19, The Public's Right to Know. Principles on Freedom of Information Legislation, June 1999.
- Carter Center, Atlanta Declaration and Plan of Action for the Advancement of the Right of Access to Information, 29 February 2008. Declaration released by the participant in the global conference on the right of access to public information. The Declaration emphasizes that access to information is a fundamental human right, (in French, Spanish).
- Global Transparency Initiative, Model World Bank Policy on Disclosure of Information, May 2009.
- Global Transparency Initiative, Transparency Charter for International Financial Institutions: Claiming Our Right to Know, September 2006. GTI’s statement of the standards to which IFI information disclosure policies should conform and a key advocacy tool for the promotion of more progressive policies (in Spanish).
- Inter-Parliamentary Union, Resolution on Freedom of Expression and the Right to Information, 10 April 2009.
- Open Society Justic Initiative, 10 Principles on the Right to Know (in French and Spanish).
Open Society Justice Initiative, Principles on National Security and the Right to Information (draft), draft as of January, 2012, developed by Open Society Justice Initiative; Article 19, the Global Campaign for Free Expression; Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC); Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Witwatersrand University (CALS, South Africa); Centre for Democratic Control of the Armed Forces (DCAF); Centre for Law & Development (CLD); Centre for National Security Studies (CNSS); Centre for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information (CELE), Palermo University School of Law (Argentina); Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (India); Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (Egypt); Institute for Security Studies (Africa); International Commission of Jurists (ICJ); and National Security Archive.
 Toby Mendel, Freedom of Information: A Comparative Legal Survey (UNESCO 2nd ed. 2008). Jonathan Fox, The Uncertain Relationship Between Transparency and Accountability, Development in Practice, Vol. 17 (Routledge Pubs, Aug 2007), p. 1.