Conference on Convention 108+ as the global privacy standard, building a free data transfer area while preserving human dignity hosted by the Chair of the Ministers’ Deputies

Strasbourg 28 January 2022
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As delivered by Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe


Chair of the Ministers’ Deputies,

President of the GR-J,

Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy,

Chair of the Convention 108 Committee,


Distinguished experts,

Ladies and gentlemen,


I thank the Italian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers for organising this important event.

Today is the Data Protection Day.

And it marks the 41st anniversary of Convention 108.

So, this is a fine moment to take stock of where we are on data protection and to consider how we should move forward.

Convention 108 has been an important tool, in Europe and around the world, over the course of the past four decades.

With 55 parties and 36 observers, it is still the only international, multilateral and legally binding instrument on the protection of privacy and personal data.

Where it is in force, it places a protective blanket around citizens whose personal information would otherwise be at greater risk.

It does this by providing its parties with a robust data protection framework that can be easily adapted for national legislation;

Underpinned by specific tools for regulatory harmonisation and convergence.

This is a bridge between national, regional and international legislation, ensuring that each layer helps us build trust and ensure individuals’ dignity.

But as important as it remains – those who drafted it could never have foreseen the ways in which our societies have changed, or how rapidly.

They could not have envisaged today’s tech-driven world – neither the internet with its online commerce and social networks, nor big data, connected objects or geolocation devices.

These generate, store and circulate information about all of us at startling speed and with an extraordinary reach:

Information that can be accessed by public authorities, businesses, and indeed criminals, in new and unforeseen ways.

That’s why, almost four years ago, we opened for signature Convention 108+:

To keep up with the pace of change and to ensure that people’s rights do the same.

108+ builds on existing principles, but sets standards in transparency, accountability and privacy for the digital age.

It is also clear that in dealing with individuals’ data, states must demonstrate legitimacy, necessity and proportionality –

And that actions taken in the public interest must address – directly – a pressing social need such as national security, public safety or crime prevention.

New evaluation and review mechanisms help ensure the accountability and credibility of the system.

All in all, this provides individuals with greater autonomy and dignity as technology advances with rapid speed.

There is a further and unique advantage to joining 108+.

In doing so, countries can pass information between one another more freely.

And this, in turn, means that data can produce new insights, services and prosperity without compromising privacy.

This privacy – this culture of privacy - is important.

It is integral to the human rights, democracy and rule of law standards upheld by our Organisation.

Dear friends,

Other international organisations are of course making major contribution to our overall work on these issues in Europe and beyond.

And I look forward to hearing the contribution from Ms Ana Brian Nougreres, who recently became UN Special rapporteur on the right to privacy, and who is kindly joining us today from Uruguay – where it is rather early in the morning.

Similarly, you will hear a recorded message from the European Union’s Commissioner for Justice,
Mr Didier Reynders.

The EU has addressed data protection concerns as part of its work on GDPR, General Data Protection Regulation.

Indeed, being a state party to Convention 108 is one of the elements that the EU considers in its adequacy decisions on GDPR.

I know that Mr Reynders also supports ratification of 108+ and I welcome that.

So far, we have 16 ratifications, plus 27 signatures and a determination to attract further accessions so that this important instrument comes into force as soon as possible.

Today, I appeal to all those states parties to Convention 108 who have not yet done so, to ratify 108+.

Finally, thank you for your participation and support and for the contribution that you have made, and I look forward to your reflections about what more we can achieve together.

Thank you for your attention.