OHCHR and equal participation in political and public affairs

“Participation is an essential principle of governance. As a former head of government, I recognize that it may be challenging to embrace multiple, and critical, voices. But participation ensures better policies and outcomes.”

- Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
25 September 2020, High-Level Side Event:
 Participation, Human Rights and the Governance Challenge Ahead

About Participation

Political and public participation rights play a crucial role in the promotion of democratic governance, the rule of law, social inclusion and economic development, as well as in the advancement of all human rights.

The right to participate in political and public life is important in empowering individuals and groups, and is essential to eliminate marginalization and discrimination. Participation rights are inseparably linked to other human rights such as the rights to peaceful assembly and association, freedom of opinion and expression and the rights to education and to information.

Many obstacles to equal political and public participation exist. These barriers may include direct and indirect discrimination on grounds such as race, colour, descent, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, birth, disability, nationality or other status. Even when there is no formal discrimination in connection with political or public participation, inequalities in access to other human rights may impede the effective exercise of political participation rights.

OHCHR’s work on equal participation

The Human Rights Council has dedicated increasing attention to the issue of equal participation in political and public affairs. In 2018, after five regional consultations, OHCHR released new guidelines on Participation. The guidelines outline the basic principles of the right to participate in public affairs and include practical recommendations that cover participation in electoral and non-electoral contexts, nationally and internationally.

Key documents

Participation Guidelines

These guidelines are designed to assist States and all relevant actors in conducting their respective activities relating to participation.

PDF: العربية | 中文 | English | Français | русский | Español

Latest reports

Summary of the discussions held during the expert workshop on the right to participate in public affairs (2016)

The promotion, protection and implementation of the right to participate in public affairs in the context of the existing human rights law: best practices, experiences, challenges and ways to overcome them (2015)

Factors that impede equal political participation and steps to overcome those challenges (2014)

View all reports


High-level virtual panel: Participation, Human Rights and the Governance Challenge Ahead
25 September 2020
Watch on UN Web TV