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