International standards

Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights defines the obligations of States parties in connection with the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, vote and be elected at genuine periodic elections, and have equal access to public service positions. Article 25 is complemented by the interpretive General Comment and jurisprudence adopted by the Human Rights Committee.

Other international human rights instruments contain similar provisions. These include:

  • the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (art. 21);
  • the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (art. 8);
  • the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (art. 5 (c));
  • the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (arts. 7 and 8);
  • the Convention on the Rights of the Child (art. 15);
  • the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (arts. 4 (3), 29, 33 (3));
  • the International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (arts. 41 and 42);
  • the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (art. 2 (2));
  • the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (arts. 5 and 18);
  • the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (art. 22);
  • the Declaration on the Rights to Development (arts 1.1, 2 and 8.2); and
  • the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (art. 8).

At the regional level, the right to participate is protected in several instruments, including:

  • Protocol No. 1 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (art. 3),
  • the American Convention on Human Rights (art. 23) and
  • the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (art. 13).