In recent years "archiving" has become a new concept, and the old image, still very present in people's minds, of files gathering dust on the shelves must now be forgotten. In a paper-free system information is easily accessible and must remain so throughout its lifecycle, from when it is first created to the decision to transfer it to an archive or to destroy it. This means that even when information has been placed in the archives it must be easy and convenient to retrieve and more often than not available on-line.
Increasingly, archives are no longer considered simply as a means of preserving documents for their heritage value, but are regarded as part and parcel of the information networks, since information is archived from the very moment it is created. Nowadays, the archive function's responsibilities include ensuring that information can be easily traced and, in certain cases, providing proof of day-to-day activities.
At the same time, the law governing this field has been undergoing considerable changes for some years, primarily as a result of new developments in office information systems, the expansion of Internet use and the emergence of new forms of Internet-based transactions. The practices inherent in Internet use, which are now spreading to many areas and generating an increasingly diverse range of documents, are leading to radical changes in the legal rules, and law specialists expect these new rules to become generally applicable in all sectors of activity in the near future.
New concepts - "information lifecycle management" and "records management" - have been devised to deal with these changes.
These developments, together with the constant efficiency drive at the Council of Europe, will necessitate regular updating of the Organisation's archives policy. The policy document currently in force dates from May 2001 (see document RAP-INF(2001)6). What does this new version propose?
It lays down the five objectives of the archiving function at the Council of Europe:
ensuring the lasting survival of records of the Organisation's past,
determining the day-to-day measures to be taken,
guaranteeing a traceable record of activities,
allowing business to continue in the event of information loss or destruction,
satisfying legal requirements in matters of records preservation.
It describes the regulatory environment needed to ensure that archiving is synchronised with the information lifecycle.
It sets out the relevant tools and procedures for good archives management. In this connection, archiving agreements stipulating the measures and rules specific to each entity, which include the collection policy of the department concerned, a documents management schedule, the depository authority for the department's materials and the conditions of access to its archives, remain the genuine cornerstone of the system.
Lastly, it lists the operators involved and their responsibilities, in particular those of the author departments, whose involvement constitutes a guarantee of the archives' quality.
(for full text of policy see the link bellow)
 Information lifecycle management, or ILM, is defined as all the strategies introduced in order to manage information from its creation to its long-term storage or destruction.