Leave No Trace: The Right to Information and the Duty to Document

This report contains the first comprehensive research into the laws, guidelines, and practices on record keeping across a range of 12 European jurisdictions and the European Commission. It reveals an extremely weak legal infrastructure and hugely variable practice on record keeping, which is undermining the public’s right of access to information: it is impossible to obtain documents that do not exist.

The research found that only one jurisdiction, Scotland, has specific requirements that particular types of records of government decision making be created: a specific “duty to document” clearly set out in law with a specific oversight mechanism. For the remainder of the countries surveyed, some have guidelines on good administration, and some others have good practices, developed organically over time. This is generally positive although the report found instances where such practices have evolved separately within the same bureaucratic ecosystem, resulting in a proliferation of disparate record-keeping systems of varying quality. There is clearly a pressing need to harmonise the rules and practice in many of the jurisdictions studied.

The report provides recommendations for governments as to how to ensure the existence to of records of decision-making processes.


Year Country Organisation Author Type
2018 Austria, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom Access Info Europe, Think tank for Action on Social Change Access Info Europe, Think tank for Action on Social Change policy recommendations, research report
Theory of Change Keywords Download/link
Intermediate Outcome 1 access to information, duty to document, public bodies, record keeping Download/link